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Case Studies In Engineering Ethics

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.94.1 - 2.94.8



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Jon E. Freckleton

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2563


Jon E. Freckleton, P.E. Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, New York 14623


The case studies presented in this paper are based on 22 years of experience at two major US companies, four years on active duty in the military, and 11 years of teaching. Cases are presented first as the situation, with the results of action taken in a later section so that they can be used for discussion with students. These occurred over a career that started as a new college hire and progressed to third level management in industry.


During 26 years of industrial and military experience, numerous ethics issues were encountered over the years. I have selected ten cases for this paper and have divided them between technical and personal issues.


Case 1 - False Claim of Production Source. A major company was unsuccessful in bidding on a complex gyroscopic control system for a military aircraft. Using strong political connections with the White House, they forced a Pentagon level review of the evaluation. The proposal claimed all portions of the system were produced in company facilities. On a visit to one of the qualified suppliers of Rate Switching Gyros, Air Force personnel had witnessed production of units with name plates of the major supplier. The qualified supplier was a very small company. Is it ethical for a company to subcontract equipment and then claim in a proposal that it is produced in house? Where is the line drawn between a typical purchased subassembly which goes into a larger product?

Case 2 - Unfunded Equipment Development. A working level engineer came up with a very creative approach to improve the UL required High Potential Leakage Tests. He proposed modifying a very complex piece of computer based test equipment to aid final line personnel in discovering causes for failure when the final assembly was tested on a standard High Potential Tester. He convinced his unit manager of the value of his proposal. His manager then convinced his area manager of the high probability of success. Unit had about 15 engineers, the area had 60 engineers and technicians. However, they could not convince the production plant that funded this test equipment to fund this proposal. Funding involved about one man year of programming, about $10,000 of test equipment, and about four man months of technician time to assembly, debug and try the test equipment. Should the proposal be dropped or should resources be "stolen" from other funded programs?

Freckleton, J. E. (1997, June), Case Studies In Engineering Ethics Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6440

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