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Assessment of the Impact of Civil Engineering Design Problems for Promoting Ethical Decisions

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Assessing Ethics Learning

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jagadish Torlapati Rowan University

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Dr. Jagadish Torlapati is currently a Lecturer at the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rowan University in Glassboro. His primary areas of interest are environmental and water resources engineering. Prior to his role at Rowan University, he was a post-doctoral researcher at New Jersey Institute of Technology where he worked on Exxon Valdez and BP oil spills.

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Sarah K. Bauer Rowan University

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Dr. Sarah Bauer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rowan University. Dr. Bauer holds a doctoral degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Dr. Bauer is the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships as a young professional. Her primary research interests are: water and wastewater treatment, renewable energy technologies, and pollution prevention. She has worked on a variety of educational projects to enhance environmental engineering education while at Rowan University. Dr. Bauer is an active member of ASEE and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and currently serves as the Faculty Advisor for Rowan’s Student Chapter of SWE.

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Cheng Zhu Rowan University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cheng Zhu is an assistant professor of civil engineering at Rowan University. His research primarily concerns multi-scale geomaterial behavior under coupled processes across various time scales, with emphasis placed on microstructure characterization, constitutive model formulation, and computational geomechanics, for applications in geological storage and energy geotechnics. Prior to joining the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rowan, he worked in the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin. At Rowan, he teaches courses in geotechnical engineering and geomechanics. He is a recipient of James S. Lai Outstanding Graduate Award from the geosystems group at Georgia Tech.

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Abstract The primary objective of this study is to present design problems and case studies in a civil and environmental engineering discipline that encourages ethical decision-making among students. Specifically, this study will focus on the first canon of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Code of Ethics: “Hold Safety Paramount”. The principles of this canon indicate that engineers will conduct their professional duties to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of the public. The engineering community has experienced multiple scandals involving ethical lapses among large companies or government agencies during recent times. Traditional engineering education focuses on skill acquisition rather than behavior change. Harding et al. (2006) have presented a study that indicated that unethical behavior during college might translate into unethical behavior at a professional level. Therefore, it is necessary to train students to make ethical decisions. To promote ethical decision-making among civil and environmental engineering students, we implemented design problems and case-studies in two courses at the junior level and one course at a senior level. The two junior-level courses are Fluid Mechanics and Sustainable Civil and Environmental Engineering, whereas Foundations Engineering is a senior elective course. The student responses were assessed by a one-question survey similar to the study presented by Sleep and Rohwer (2019). These courses were offered in Fall 2019, and the assessment results from these courses have been analyzed. Our results indicated that the students were able to recognize the value of safety in civil engineering. Majority of the students have indicated that reviewing the ethical canons has strongly influenced their final selection. Therefore, engineering educators should challenge students to make ethical decisions by using realistic design problems and case studies.

Torlapati, J., & Bauer, S. K., & Zhu, C. (2020, June), Assessment of the Impact of Civil Engineering Design Problems for Promoting Ethical Decisions Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34194

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