Free courses from UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL)


NPL run a number of online courses, which range in price from £299 to £700. As a result of COVID-19, NPL have made all the courses free until the end of June. 👍👍👍👍👍

The courses fall into 3 categories 

1) General Measurement
2) Dimensional Measurements 
3) Specialist areas 

Not only are they educational, but there’s also an examination on all but the very short courses, and if one passes, one gets a certificate. I personally don’t care too much for getting certificates, but it does add a challenge. 

For anyone wanting to get chartered/professional engineer or physicist status, I an sure the IET, IEEE, IOP or whatever would consider these courses part of your “continuous professional development” or whatever similar term is used outside the UK. 

The first course I did, “Introduction to metrology” is described as “Entey level”

It supposed to be 0.5 days. I personally found it took me at least double that time. 😢😢😢😢😢 Perhaps I am just a slow learner.😢😢😢😢😢 It was not the technical context I found that challenging, as I used to work in an MOD standards laboratory, but understanding, (and committing to memory), the roll of the administrative bodies involved in disseminating the SI units. I managed to get 96% in the exam, so I guess it did eventually sink into my slow brain. Others said it was easy and only took them a couple of hours.

Someone else, who I suggested looked at the course, described it as a “stupid course”, and a “con by NPL”. I think Kurt will guess what VNWA owner that was.😂😂😂😂

So your millage may vary. 

Despite the course had taken me much longer than NPL say, the 40 minutes allowed for the exam is more than enough. 

The second course I did, “Introduction to Measurement Uncertainties”

I found much easier, although I haven’t done the third part of the exam yet. 

Make sure you have a pen and paper handy when doing the second part of the exam. The last two questions are more tricky than the test, and just before doing them, the exam suggests that you have a pen and paper to draw a Gaussian distribution. Unfortunately I didn’t have them handy and didn’t have enough time to grab them. Adding and subtracting various parts of a Gaussian distribution went wrong in my brain. 😢😢😢😢 I failed both of those questions, but later managed to work out the answers without a pen & paper. 

I am currently thinking of doing the 3rd course, “Understanding Uncertainty Budgets”

but that’s classed as intermediate level, and is 2 days. I don’t even know what an uncertainty budget is! 

The 4th course, “Understanding and Evaluating Measurement Uncertainty” 

is definitely of interest to me, but that’s considered “Advanced level”. Again that is 2 days. Some of the course appears that it goes beyond GUM

which I personally find an impenetrable document - it is really is aimed at professional metrologists. But this course introduces one to the philosophy of GUM, so perhaps I would not find GUM such a difficult document if I do that course. 

I might give the intermediate and advanced courses a try. 

Anyway, people can look and make their own minds up, or ignore them if they are of no interest.

Dave, G8WRB. 

Dr. David Kirkby,
Kirkby Microwave Ltd,
Telephone 01621-680100./ +44 1621 680100

Registered in England & Wales, company number 08914892.
Registered office:
Stokes Hall Lodge, Burnham Rd, Althorne, Chelmsford, Essex, CM3 6DT, United Kingdom

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