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Developing and Applying Knowledge and Skills in Ethics and Professional Morality: An Evidence-based Practice Paper

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Ethical Design

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Donald Winiecki Boise State University

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Don Winiecki, Ed.D., Ph.D. is the `Professor of Ethics & Morality in Professional Practice` in the Boise State University, College of Engineering. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in `Foundational Values` and `Professional Ethics` in the Computer Science Department and Organizational Performance & Workplace Learning Department in the Boise State University College of Engineering. His research focuses on the attributes of technology and technology-in-use as a reflection on, and an influence on social morals and social ethics.

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Lynn Catlin P.E. Boise State University


Harold Ackler Boise State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Harold Ackler is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering at Boise State University. He teaches advanced undergraduate laboratory courses and manages the senior capstone program in the Micron School. He received BS and MS degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and his PhD degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1997), all in Materials Science and Engineering. He has over 13 years of experience working in industry where he learned how important hands-on education and professional development are for preparing students to succeed in the workplace.

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Developing and Applying Knowledge and Skills in Ethics and Professional Morality: Evidence-Based Practice in Engineering Education

Engineering ethics is often taught through case studies of disasters occurring as a consequence of lapses in professional judgment, or from a cascade of possible but calculably improbable events (Tacoma Narrows bridge, Missouri hotel mezzanine, NASA Challenger, Deep Water Horizon oil well explosion, etc.). These often provide a forensically-scoped orientation that gives attentive students a view of legal risks and costs of engineering failures and a vicarious don’t-let-this-happen-to-you experience. While there is certainly value in demonstrating how problems have occurred in the past so we re-commit to professional due diligence, there is much more to ethics in engineering than this. For example, the NSPE Code of Ethics puts substantive emphasis on ethics as a proactive process that defends and protects personal and societal needs and legal rights through engineered products and systems — an orientation to professional morality that may actually be prerequisite to the more common legalistic approach to engineering ethics.

In pursuit of evidence-based practice to improve the preparation of undergraduate engineering students, in the Boise State University College of Engineering (BSU-COEN), undergraduate engineering students take a capstone or “Senior Design” course in which they are expected to fulfill major elements of engineering design and development processes specific to their major discipline. In response to expectations set in the NSPE Code of Ethics and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the objectives for this course in the past two years this course has included instruction and guided practice in applied ethics as an embedded feature of engineering design and development. Students gain practice and feedback in a systematic process for applying ethical reasoning and rating the ethicality of their reasoning. As a result, they can demonstrate this addition to their engineering skills by including this process and its outputs in their culminating reports for the class and clients and a college-wide poster fair for all students enrolled in Senior Design. They can also carry this systematic process with them into subsequent vocational and career venues. Focusing on innovations in MBE 481 — Mechanical & Biomedical Engineering Senior Design — this session will report team-based methods based on a fundamental framework of applied ethics, assessment and evaluation data on the affects and effects of this innovation in the BSU-COEN Senior Design sequence. Discussion will include plans to implement similar experiences across all Senior Design courses in the College.

Winiecki, D., & Catlin, L., & Ackler, H. (2020, June), Developing and Applying Knowledge and Skills in Ethics and Professional Morality: An Evidence-based Practice Paper Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34423

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