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COVID-19 Pandemic Reveals a Major Challenge in Engineering Ethics Education

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

4

DOI

10.18260/1-2--36860

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/36860

Download Count

245

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Paper Authors

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Luan M. Nguyen Iowa State University of Science and Technology Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-3183-4804

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Luan M. Nguyen is an MA/Ph.D. student in Anthropology/Civil Engineering, who completed his Master of Science in Biochemistry at Iowa State University and his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Hartwick College. His first master's thesis focused on the structural analysis of the schizophrenic gene DISC1 using transmission electron microscopy and hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry. For his second master's thesis, he focuses on identifying the individual and institutional factors that contribute to a "culture of disengagement" from the ethical dimension of engineering work among students in the engineering profession. His Ph.D. project is funded by the NSF and is concerned with promoting and improving engineering students' ethical behavior and sensitivity through on-campus student organizations. His academic interests include mental health, international development, human rights, and engineering ethics. Currently, his ambition is to work within an international organization such as UNESCO and to be an advocate for promoting science and technology as critical tools of sustainable development as well as to participate in the dialogue between scientists, policy-makers, and society. Luan enjoys traveling, reading, and watching documentaries.

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Cristina Poleacovschi Iowa State University

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Dr. Poleacovschi is an Assistant Professor at Iowa State University. She researches issues of diversity and focuses on intersectional aspects of microaggressions.

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Kasey M. Faust University of Texas at Austin Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-7986-4757

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Dr. Kasey Faust is an Assistant Professor in Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research on sociotechnical systems—primarily water sector infrastructure—aims to improve service to communities. Dr. Faust’s work spans the project phase during construction through the operations phase, exploring human-infrastructure interactions, infrastructure interdependencies, and the institutional environment. Current studies within her research group include: human-water sector infrastructure interdependencies in cities experiencing urban decline; disaster migration and the resilience of the built environment; incorporating equity into water infrastructure decision-making; sociotechnical modeling of infrastructure systems including gentrification and food deserts; the impact of policies and regulations on the built environment; understanding the impact of institutional elements on projects; and modeling of public perceptions.

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Michaela Leigh LaPatin P.E. University of Texas at Austin

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Michaela LaPatin is pursuing her MS and PhD in Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Her current research focuses on macroethics education in undergraduate engineering programs.

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Kate Padgett Walsh Iowa State University of Science and Technology Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-5215-6475

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Dr. Kate Padgett Walsh is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Iowa State University. She received a B.A. from Middlebury College, an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Her research focuses on ethics and the history of ethics, including the ethics of debt and finance, as well as the scholarship of teaching and learning.

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Scott Grant Feinstein

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Dr. Scott Feinstein is an expert in research design and comparative and identity politics.

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Cassandra Rutherford Iowa State University

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Dr. Cassandra Rutherford is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Constructions and Environmental Engineering. Her research focuses on geotechnical engineering and engineering education.

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Abstract

Engineering ethics education often focuses on the actions of individual engineers as well as their relationship with clients, colleagues, and employers (microethics) while paying less attention to the broader impacts of engineering work on society (macroethics). We can further divide both micro and macroethics into two levels each. Individual microethics refers to the actions of individual engineers while professional microethics refers to the relationships between individual professionals and their clients, colleagues, and employers. Professional macroethics refers to the problems facing members of the engineering profession as a group in their relation to society while social macroethics refers to the technological policy decisions at the societal level. Ideally, an ethical engineer would be able to engage with all four types of ethics, and as such, we ask here, “which pillar of ethics do engineering students engage with when faced with ethical issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic?” The COVID-19 pandemic represents an extreme example of an ethical issue that directly affects students’ day-to-day lives. We recognize that students may engage with different pillars of ethics under different scenarios. In this analysis, we aim to provide insights into how we could improve engineering ethics education by identifying with which area(s) of ethics do students engage. Here, we claim that both micro and macroethical thinking are required to address the pandemic and its associated social problems. We distributed a survey to senior engineering students at a Midwestern university (n=171). Preliminary analyses suggested that students engaged with professional macroethics the most while social ethics was rarely mentioned. This is expected as previous studies have shown that many engineering students lack social competencies. The results contribute to further understanding of the area(s) of engineering ethics where students are most proficient. In addition, we propose the possibility of developing a COVID-19 pandemic ethical scenario that could be integrated into curriculum as it taps into various macroethical pillars. The study will contribute to improving the use of the micro-macroethics framework in understanding how students engage with ethics in different scenarios.

Nguyen, L. M., & Poleacovschi, C., & Faust, K. M., & LaPatin, M. L., & Padgett Walsh, K., & Feinstein, S. G., & Rutherford, C. (2021, July), COVID-19 Pandemic Reveals a Major Challenge in Engineering Ethics Education Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36860

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