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Collaborating to Integrate Ethics in an Introductory Engineering Computing Course

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Ethics Integration in Engineering Design

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Brooke Odle Hope College Orcid 16x16

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Brooke M. Odle received the B.S. degree in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, and the M.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, as well as the doctorate in Biomedical Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University Biomedical and Health Science, Newark, NJ (Joint Program in Biomedical Engineering). Dr. Odle is currently
an Assistant Professor of Engineering at Hope College, Holland, MI. Her research interests include biomechanics of movement, rehabilitation engineering, computational musculoskeletal modeling, and control of movement.

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Greg Bassett Hope College

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Increasing attention, in both scholarly literature and the popular press, to the role of bias in algorithm design has highlighted the need for embedding ethics education in computer science curricula. At some institutions, this has been realized through collaborative instruction among faculty in Computer Science and Philosophy; however, there has not been as much focus as to how such a collaborative instructional model can be implemented in introductory engineering computing courses. Typically, these courses do not cover advanced computing topics such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and software design and verification. Moreover, faculty at small liberal arts colleges with a primarily undergraduate population may find the development and implementation of a completely new collaborative course challenging. In this paper, we report a preliminary plan to integrate ethics into an existing engineering computing course at such an institution, inspired by this collaborative teaching framework as well as recent advances in computer science course design that use science fiction to engage students in learning and communicating about ethics. In an initial trial of this plan, an ethical issue of technology design was introduced by watching an episode of a science fiction television program. Students then learned about philosophical ethics, their roles and responsibilities as engineers, and ethical factors to consider when designing technology. Applying this knowledge, students discussed ethical issues observed in the television program as well as real life examples of ethical issues in computing and technology. To hone their communication skills, students created short podcasts in which they discussed general ethical principles that were violated by the design and operation of the technology in the episode and proposed a more ethical design. Our approach offers a way that ethics can be introduced collaboratively in two class sessions and applied in assignments completed outside of class. Future work will consist of refining this plan after assessing student understanding before and after being introduced to the ethical concepts. Ultimately, we anticipate faculty at small liberal arts colleges adopting this plan for introductory engineering computing and programming courses.

Odle, B., & Bassett, G. (2021, July), Collaborating to Integrate Ethics in an Introductory Engineering Computing Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36804

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