Asee peer logo

A Reflective Analysis on Professional Codes of Ethics

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Professional and Regulatory Issues in Ethics

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Graeme W Troxell Colorado State University

visit author page

Graeme will soon be completing his master's degree in philosophy at Colorado State University, where he is a graduate research assistant working with engineers, ethicists, and entrepreneurs to address pressing questions in the ethics of engineering design. He is interested in emerging technologies and technological entrepreneurship, ethics, epistemology, and design theory. He is also a Venture Capital Analyst for Rockies Venture Club in Denver, Colorado.

visit author page


Wade O. Troxell Department of Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1374

visit author page

Wade O. Troxell is Mayor of Fort Collins, Colorado. He was elected in April 2015, reelected in April 2017 and in his second term as mayor.

Mayor Troxell serves on the National League of Cities (NLC) Universities Communities Council (UCC), Executive Committee - Colorado Municipal League, Platte River Power Authority - Board of Directors, Northern Colorado Regional Airport Authority - Commisioner, City of Fort Collins/Colorado State University Leadership Committee, and .Chair - City of Fort Collins Future’s Committee Previous to serving as mayor, he was twice elected to the Fort Collins City Council representing District 4, serving a total of eight years.

Dr. Troxell received his BS, MS and Ph.D. degrees in engineering from CSU. He was a NATO Post Doctoral Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. He has been on the faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering since 1985. Dr. Troxell is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Dr. Troxell is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of intelligent robotics and intelligent control of distributed infrastructure systems. His smart grid research has focused on intelligent systems and the integration of the distributed energy resources (DER), including renewable energy and storage, into the electric power grid. He has conducted educational, research and outreach activities with more than $12 million from industrial and federal funding sources.

Dr. Troxell co-founded Sixth Dimension, Inc., a provider of a communications and control network for the electric power industry integrating in distributed energy resources into the distribution grid. As President/COO, he led this early-staged company through three rounds of venture financing totaling over $18 million involving some of the top energy venture firms.

Dr. Troxell established NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) in Colorado. He is a emeritus member of the US DOE Gridwise Architectural Council. He is a past ASME Senior Vice President.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This paper explores some limitations of professional codes of ethics in engineering. While codes are perhaps adequate guides for action in well-defined and familiar moral situations, they are less than helpful when circumstances are novel or unique. We propose that being reasonable in moral matters consists of more than simply following what the official rules dictate. If this is true, and if it is also the true that engineers find themselves presented with novel or ambiguous moral situations, then we should seek alternative ground for engineers’ moral conduct. An engineer who operates reasonably and intelligently in accordance with rules does not passively follow them, but instead actively applies or modifies the rules according to the problem at hand. We conclude that while codes play an important role in professional engineering, engineers also need to be well equipped to proactively and creatively analyze unique moral considerations and contexts.

Troxell, G. W., & Troxell, W. O. (2017, June), A Reflective Analysis on Professional Codes of Ethics Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27506

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015