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Educating Engineering Students about Ethics: Experiences at Brown University and Trinity College

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.449.1 - 23.449.12



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Paper Authors


David K. Ware

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David Ware worked for 36 years as in-house counsel for United Technologies Corporation (UTC), serving as vice president and Counsel at the Pratt & Whitney Military Engines Division from 1993 to 2012. During his tenure at UTC, he was responsible for a wide variety of business and corporate legal matters. His work included enforcement of the company’s Code of Ethics, and the integration of ethical considerations into business decision-making. He has lectured at Trinity College and Brown University on the subject of Business Ethics for Engineering Students since 2003, and has been an instructor in Business Law at Albertus Magnus College. Mr. Ware earned his B.A. in Political Science from Amherst College, and his J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law.

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David J. Ahlgren Trinity College

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David J. Ahlgren is Karl W. Hallden professor of Engineering at Trinity College and is director and host of the Trinity College Fire-Fighting Home Robot Contest. Professor Ahlgren has been a faculty member at Trinity College since 1973. His current professional interests include educational robotics with real-world applications. Prof. Ahlgren received the B.S. in Engineering from Trinity College, the M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Tulane University, and the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

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Harvey F. Silverman Brown University

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Dr. Harvey F. Silverman was born in Hartford, Connecticut on August 15, 1943. He received the B.S. and B.S.E.E. degrees from Trinity College in Hartford in 1965 and 1966, and the Sc.M. and Ph.D. degrees from Brown University in 1968 and 1971, respectively. Dr. Silverman worked with Joseph Gerber of Gerber Scientific Instruments from 1964 to 1966 and helped design the first Gerber plotter. He was at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center from 1970 to 1980, working in the areas of digital image processing, computer performance analysis, and was an original member of the IBM Research speech recognition group that started in 1972. He was manager of the Speech Terminal project from 1976 until 1980. At IBM Dr. Silverman received several outstanding innovation awards and patent awards. In 1980, Dr. Silverman was appointed professor of Engineering at Brown University, and charged with the development of a program in computer engineering. His research interests currently include microphone-array research, array signal processing, speech processing and embedded systems. He has been the director of the Laboratory for Engineering Man/Machine Systems in the School of Engineering at Brown since its founding in 1981. From July 1991 to June 1998 he was the dean of Engineering at Brown University. Dr. Silverman was a member of the IEEE Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing Technical Committee on Digital Signal Processing and was its chairman from 1979 until 1983. He was the general chairman of the 1977 ICASSP in Hartford. He received an IEEE Centennial Medal in 1984. He was Trustee of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. from 1994 to 2003, and is a lifetime fellow of IEEE.

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AbstractEducating Engineering Students about Ethics: Experiences at _____ University and_____ CollegeEngineering students need to understand that their future profession is guided byprinciples of ethics – principles regarding both the practice of engineering itself, and thebusiness environment in which that practice occurs. Since 2003 at ____ College(____), and since 2005 at ____ University, this need has been addressed in lecturespresented by an ethics advocate, lawyer and member of the senior management teamat a Fortune 50 corporation. These lectures draw heavily upon real-life examples ofbusiness situations in which the company’s engineers faced ethical choices anddecisions. The guest lecturer solicits student participation and discussion to illustratethe importance of ethics, the kinds of ethical decisions made in the business world, andthe nature of ethical decision-making. Particular ethical challenges discussed duringthe lecture include conflicts of interest, gratuities and bribes, protection of proprietaryinformation, among others.This paper will discuss the method and content of the lecture, and observations by thelecturer and the host engineering professors about the perceived level of ethicalawareness among the students. The paper will describe the courses in which thelectures are presented at ___ and ___, and it will present and discuss the results of asurvey completed by the engineering students. The survey, administered to current andpast students at ____ and _____, asked them to evaluate the value and effectiveness ofthe ethics lectures. The survey questions asked students to recall the lecture, toconsider the lecture’s effect on their ability to make ethical choices, and to rate the valueof the ethics lecture on their engineering education. Approximately 80% of thosesurveyed considered ethics to be a generally important topic to be covered in theircollege education, and 72% found this particular lecture to have been helpful for makingethical choices.

Ware, D. K., & Ahlgren, D. J., & Silverman, H. F. (2013, June), Educating Engineering Students about Ethics: Experiences at Brown University and Trinity College Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19463

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