A piece posted on June 06, 2016 by Shane Laros on Engineering.com deals with Ethics for Engineers training and how top schools start to study engineering ethics. Indeed, engineers face the ethical implications of their work every day.
According to Laros, “these implications, alongside the crucial nature of civil engineering, are necessary to improving human life around the world. Being able to identify the impact one’s work will have on both the individual and the community is essential, as fixing one problem may create or bring attention to another.
Per Wikipedia, engineering ethics is the field of applied ethics and system of moral principles that apply to the practice of engineering. The field examines and sets the obligations by engineers to society, to their clients, and to the profession.
Below you will find the extensive version of the article:
Infusing Ethics into the Development of Engineers :
For engineering students interested in engaging in-depth with engineering ethics, the National Academy of Engineering recently released a report titled “Infusing Ethics into the Development of Engineers,” which outlines some of the country’s best ethics programs in engineering education.
The report is based on a set of criteria the selection committee used to determine the strength of a school’s engineering ethics program. Schools were scrutinized based the program’s format, length of occurrence within a student’s education and course curriculum.
The report goes beyond simple course details, however, and also looks at incentives and faculty reward structures that entice educators to participate and stay up-to-date on their own ethics education.
Throughout, the report looked closely at how students were able to connect their ethics education with their future in engineering. Below are some highlights from some of the highest ranking schools.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ethics and Engineering for Safety
MIT’s semester-long program in ethics uses problems that are identified as having no clear ethical outcome to encourage students to look at problems from multiple perspectives. By looking at broad ethical problems on a macro scale, students are asked to think of public safety and the responsibility of an engineer to safeguard human life, without compromising the innovative work of engineers.
The second of MIT’s STEM ethics programs, Terrascope involves alumni mentors connecting with freshman students in a project-based, team learning environment. By integrating with students’ projects, the year long course helps students identify possible ethical implications of their work, and includes the support of upperclassmen and faculty who work as mentors and teaching fellows.
Case Studies for Engineering Ethics Across the Engineering Life Cycle
Northeastern University offers a slightly different approach to their ethics programs than other schools, by using a large repository of case studies and materials compiled from real world examples. Professional engineers have contributed data to the program, which tries to ensure that all ethical angles of a given situation are covered. Less rigorous cases are also used in high school education programs, to begin the students’ ethics education as early as possible, then leading into the university level.
Multiyear Engineering Ethics Case Study Approach
Northeastern’s second ethics program for STEM education students is available after students begin their second year, and continuing through their fourth. It is an interactive, case study based program that integrates with the student’s regular education, as well as their cooperative placements. With Northeastern’s efforts in ethics clearly visible, you can be sure the 80 to 100 civil engineers the school graduates annually are well-versed in engineering ethics.
Global Engineers’ Education Course
Stanford’s ethics program puts students into humanitarian situations to show them the ethical implications of engineering, rather than simply telling them about it. For example, students work with a community in rural India to address local issues such as sanitation and hygiene. Though the program is not as large or in depth as some of the others mentioned here, the students gain valuable insight and perspective as they are required to report on and discuss their work.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Humanitarian Engineering, Past and Present: A Role-Playing First-Year Course
Focusing on the social responsibility of ethics in engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute incorporates their ethics curriculum directly into the program’s courses. It has the support of faculty from multiple disciplines, and takes place in a student’s first year of STEM post secondary education. The seven-week course uses roleplaying and student interaction to examine large scale, macroethical issues such as city sanitation or river water purification, while identifying different points of view in each problem.
Lafayette College and Rutgers University
Engineering a Catastrophe: Ethics for First-Year STEM
Another program designed for first year students, Lafayette College, in conjunction with Rutgers University, encourages its STEM students to look at ethical issues from the perspective of both engineers and non-engineers. Students are encouraged to develop empathy and divergent thinking while engaging with students from other disciplines. The course uses historical and contemporary issues as focuses of discussion, and is set as the cornerstone of a continuing ethical education throughout the rest of the larger engineering curriculum.”
There are many more excellent engineering ethics educational opportunities and programs at institutions across the country.
For more information and details on the entire list of schools and programs, the full report can be found on the National Academy of Engineering website.