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Engineering Ethics in Technology and Society Courses

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.624.1 - 26.624.15



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Paper Authors


David A. Rogers P.E. North Dakota State University

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Service in the U.S. Army in 1961-62 followed graduation from the University of Washington with a B.S.E.E. degree. Then Rogers earned the M.S.E.E. degree at IIT and the Master of Divinity degree (ministry) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He earned the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington in 1971. Rogers taught in Brazil until 1980 in electrical engineering at the University of Campinas. Rogers then moved to North Dakota State University in Fargo where he still teaches with the rank of Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Aside from his work in the ECE Department, Rogers has taught the College of Engineering's technology and society, history of technology, and engineering ethics courses for over 20 years.

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Orlando R. Baiocchi University of Washington, Tacoma

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Endowed Professor in Engineering Systems
University of Washington Tacoma

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Paulo F Ribeiro UNIFEI

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Master’s of Business Administration, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA, 2000.
Ph.D. Electrical Engineering, University of Manchester, Manchester, England, 1985
Diploma in Power Engineering, Power Technology Course, Power Technologies, Inc. 1979.
BSEE Electrical Engineering, 1975, Federal University, Recife Brazil, 1975.

European Engineer (Eur Ing)
Registered Professional Engineer - PE, State of Iowa, USA
Chartered Engineer (CEng), England, Reg.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – Fellow – FIEEE
The Institution of Engineering and Technology – Fellow – FIET
Conference Internationale des Grandes Reseaux Electriques a Haute Tension (CIGRE) – Member
IEC – member USA National Committee
Sigma Beta Delta, National Honor Society in Business, Management, and Administration

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ENGINEERING ETHICS IN TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY COURSESUniversity technology and society courses provide students with the opportunity to studyprofessional or engineering ethics, but ethics seen in a different context from that of a formalengineering ethics course. Ethics can be the unifying core for such courses. The formalprofessional ethics course might follow one or more of several possible approaches: (i) use ofrelevant moral virtues as guides to making decisions, (ii) emphasis on consequences to allstakeholders, or (iii) application of rules or codes that must be followed. These approaches canlead to conflicting solutions. An ethical issue in technology is often like an engineering designproblem in which the risks to the community and the responsibilities of the designers mightsuggest a pathway to the resolution of ethical conflicts. Following the thread of ethical concernsthrough technology and society courses can improve the student’s background in dealing withthe tension or discord experienced in making design choices.Some technology and society programs include two courses that deal with both the history oftechnology and with its social impact. When taught as part of the approved university generaleducation core curriculum or as part of the university global honors program, these courses offera unique opportunity for connection of students to significant concerns in the ethical practice ofengineering. The history course emphasizes the excitement of innovation and the benefits thatnew products bring to the consumer. Topics in the social impact course include the influence oftechnological media, the increased mechanization and automation of warfare, cultural changepromoted by new technologies, and the reshaping of the earth itself through technology. Suchstudies lead to the question of whether or not the human impact can be devastating on one handor liberating on the other hand. These courses are taught with a world vision even though a localor regional focus is helpful in order to connect with the student. We can go back to thedevelopment of crop agriculture in the Middle East several thousand years ago. We also look attechnological developments in Europe and Asia and their influence on parallel developments inthe U.S. We might focus on regional and national contributions in innovation by individualsfamiliar to the students. Men and women such as these in many ways model the virtues of workand creativity that can lead the student into the ethical practice of their profession.An understanding of the social and historical impact of technology on human life can makeengineering ethics more relevant and vital to an engineer’s career. We show this through acareful analysis of these courses and the acceptance such courses have among students asvehicles for a renewed vision of engineering as a vocation. The student develops ethicaldiscernment through criticism of technological development and observation of its progress andconsequences nationally and internationally. Future innovations will become part of the fabric ofhuman existence on this planet. Study of the wise use of technology contributes to the formationof engineers who can deal responsibly with the ethical challenges that new experiences and newtechnologies will bring.

Rogers, D. A., & Baiocchi, O. R., & Ribeiro, P. F. (2015, June), Engineering Ethics in Technology and Society Courses Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23962

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