Resources and Guidance for Engineering Students #1

I have recently completed my HND, so I thought I would share some of the useful resources I have picked up along the way with other students starting out on their undergraduate journey (Uni or HNC/HND) – some of these resources are helpful no matter your age or experience! With the current pandemic there may well be more learning from home, so I hope these are of use to you. Split into three blogs, starting with some useful hints to get started, general admin, and some general engineering resources useful for all stages. Part 2 focuses on core engineering subjects common to all disciplines. Part 3 is specific to Mechanical Engineering (and Industrial Services).

Part 1 – Getting Started

Learning Outcomes

Follow the Learning Outcomes for each unit in HNC/HND. Pearson give hints for what they are looking for in the Essential Content in the Unit spec. The Learning Outcomes are at the back of each Unit spec, along with recommended resources. All Units are in the downloadable Specification.


Books are useful as the Internet does not always contain the information needed or at the level suited to HN / undergraduate courses. If the module has a book guide, have a look and be selective on the books to order (I made the mistake in my first year of getting all the books advised by Pearson – second-hand but still a significant outlay).
NOTE: Links to books are to Amazon; I mostly used Amazon’s marketplace to buy books second-hand. Other second-hand book shops and places exist, including World of Books, Abe Books, and eBay. Shop around!


Look out for student deals. I signed up to Amazon Prime as it was free for 6 months, with half price for the remainder of my course. NUS TOTUM is always worth signing up for discounts too.


Anglia Ruskin University’s guide to Harvard Referencing for almost all source types.

Microsoft Word Ribbon > References > Footnotes at the end of the sentence helps the tutor see where the reference is from (and helps one later when looking back at work!). I cannot speak for other OS, but a student next to me was able to do something similar for Apple. Insert Footnote for reference to display at the bottom of the page, Endnote if you prefer the reference on the last page.

MS Word Ribbon
MS Word Footnotes

Produce Professional-looking Assignments

MS Word – Add Table of Contents, use Styles for headings, and have the Navigation pane switched on. This makes the assignment look professional and makes finding sections easier; HND and Project assignments can become very word-heavy!
MS Excel – use formulas within Excel to verify work, and life simpler for long procedures that need repeating.
Learn to use Charts for accurate and professional graphs. Line charts and XY Scatter with smooth line charts are the most used.
Sites I have used a lot for Excel wizardry include Chandoo and Excel Help Forum.
MS PowerPoint – use to draw shapes and add arrows to explain concepts

MS Word – Using Styles for Headings mean they appear in Navigation Pane and Contents
MS Excel – Use formulas in the Formula bar, and learn to generate graphs
MS PowerPoint – Great for drawing block diagrams

Time Management

I found using Excel to map when assignments were due was very useful in gauging how much I had to do. I would track what was done and try to plan ahead for the next week (often starting with the concepts I had learned and working on the newer concepts towards the deadline). Trello can also be used for the same purpose.

A younger-year student was having trouble managing time; they had to do a lot of travelling to college from their workplace, and they had sporting commitments. I found some useful tips from Daniel Wong, and along with the tips above and the general “start the assignment as soon as you get it”, the tutor was happy to report a marked improvement from this student.

General Engineering Resources

Engineering Toolbox – “Resources, Tools and Basic Information for Engineering and Design of Technical Applications”- this website has helped me through my career as well as studies. Covers mechanical principles, material codes, engineering definitions, etc. Also converts metric to imperial and has useful tables for code conversions. Has not been updated for several years.

Eng-Tips – “Intelligent work forums for engineering professionals”

Engineers Edge – Reference Data for Engineers

Freestudy – Free tutorials for mechanical students at various levels – our tutor referred to this a lot, and Pearson lists this site as a recommended resource. CAUTION – Chrome is showing this website as Not Secure!

ExplainThatStuff – “Hard stuff… made simple!”

BBC Bitesize – for when I’ve forgotten the basics…

Symbol Definition – PDF upload of common symbols used in formulae (CAUTION – source unknown)

Higher National Engineering by Tooley and Dingle (book) – General HN book which really helped me with the Design Specification for Eng Design; also helped later with Advanced Mech Principles and Analytical Methods. Please note this is an old publication (last updated 2004).

NASA – Not only do they have interesting topics and videos relating to STEM on their STEM engagement section of their home website, but they also have public access to standards such as the Man-Systems Integration Standards; which includes studied measurements and calculations of forces on the human body – I found this useful for my project which was dependent on how much force a human hand could pull on a cable brake (please note this standard has been superseded, but it is useful to reference as these measurements are not given nearly enough consideration outside).

NASA STEM Engagement
Excerpt from NASA Man-Systems Integration Standards


Becoming a member of the IMechE or IET allows access to their online libraries and other resources. From my experience with the IMechE, I was able to access Knovel and Springer, as well as their own library. I was able to access more papers in Springer with IMechE access compared to my college access (OpenAthens). Joining the institution as an Affiliate Apprentice also allowed me to attend free seminars and webinars.

Affiliate Apprentice membership is free with the IMechE for the duration of the studies. IET student/apprentice memberships are £20 per year, or £50 for the course duration. Some work placements may have already enrolled the apprentice into an institution. As a part-time mature student I enrolled myself as Affiliate Apprentice, and proved competency to achieve EngTech status towards the end of my HNC.

Finally, IMechE also grants access to Renovo Workfriend, a “career management platform” which publishes guidance on the professional workplace, and encourages the reader to think beyond what they perceive so far. Useful for developing soft skills, and how to take the next step in your career. It has certainly helped me change my approach and perspective, and I believe this is starting to pay off.


If you have a work placement, talk to your work colleagues. Their insights as technical experts can be more valuable than spending hours reading up a subject. Appreciate this can be difficult if WFH, but a coffee break (even virtually) can help.

Talking to other students was also invaluable to me for my studies; we all had our strengths and weaknesses and was able to help each other. It is also good just hearing about other industries as we can tend to get a bit silo’ed in our own industry sometimes.

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