June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.18.1 - 22.18.8
“A Case Study-Based Graduate Course in Engineering Ethics and Professional Responsibility”This paper examines in detail the development of a graduate-level course in engineering ethicsand professional responsibilities. Case studies covering the field from the Texas A&M Bonfireto Bhopal, the Quebec Bridge to the Kansas City Hyatt Regency, and many other notableincidents are used extensively to give the students insight into how a lack of ethics or anabrogation of professional responsibility has resulted in some of the major engineering failuresfor which we have records. Students prepare in advance for a discussion of the day’s topicsthrough researching the historical record. The class leader then guides the class through a closeexamination of cultural, managerial, commercial, governmental and human factors in the contextof the time in which the failures occurred. In one 3-hour class, as an example, aerospace andaviation was the topic as seen through the stories of Apollo 1 (1967), TWA Flight 800 (1996)and the Concorde crash (2000). In Apollo 1, faulty wiring in an explosive atmosphere led to lossof the capsule and crew. (Three years later, Apollo 13 was almost lost due to faulty wiring in anexplosive atmosphere.) Almost thirty years later, TWA Flight 800 was lost with all aboard dueto faulty wiring in an explosive atmosphere. The Concorde, which had a long history of tirefailures causing wing and fuel tank damage, was lost when it hit debris and a tire failed, fatallydamaging the wing and fuel tank. Disasters rarely happen without a string of warnings. Themanner in which these warnings are handled is a fertile ground for class discussion of howprofessional responsibilities were or were not handled in an ethical way. The course uses as atext the book “Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster” by AllanJ. McDonald. This is a first-hand account of the events leading up to and following the loss ofChallenger. It is written in a very readable style, and students in the course have expressed akeen interest in the story, both as a “good read” and as one of the best, most detailed accounts ofethics, professional responsibility and even management politics to be found anywhere.Additionally, research papers and presentations explore cultural views on these topics and moredetailed personal analyses and applications of the material.
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