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Engineering Students' Views of the Role of Engineering in Society

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Stakeholder Perspectives on Community Engagement in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.558.1 - 25.558.20



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Paper Authors


Nathan E. Canney University of Colorado, Boulder

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Nathan Canney received bachelor's degrees from Seattle University in civil engineering and applied mathematics. After graduation, he worked for Magnusson Klemencic Associates in Seattle, Wash., as a structural engineer on high-rise residential buildings. Canney returned to school at Stanford University for a master's degree and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in civil engineering, with an engineering education research focus.

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Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt has been a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, & Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder, since 1996. She has taught first-year introductory courses, senior capstone design, and specialty senior-level/graduate courses in environmental engineering. Her research interests in engineering education have focused on service learning, sustainability, and ethics.

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Engineering Students’ Views of the Role of Engineering in SocietyA developed sense of social responsibility should be inherent in the engineering profession suchthat any project can be seen as service to a community. Academic institutions carry theresponsibility of teaching engineering students not only technical skills but also professionalskills that relate to social responsibility, such as ethics and societal impacts. Teaching techniquessuch as project-based service learning (PBSL) could increase a student’s awareness of socialresponsibility due to the community engagement (typically with underserved populations) andthe reflective aspect inherent in PBSL.For this study a survey of civil and environmental engineering students from all academic yearsis underway using a mixed-method tool designed to assess moral/ethical development,professional development, and the combination of the two as professional social responsibility.Pre-post survey methods are being used, with over 400 students having responded to the pre-survey. The post- survey will be distributed in December, at the end of the semester. Theclasses targeted for this study include freshman introductory classes, a sophomore/juniorenvironmental engineering fundamentals class, senior design capstone and graduate levelstructures and community development classes.Results from the pre- survey will inform the level of understanding of social responsibly atwhich students enter the semester (or the university as freshman). Two short answer questionshelp reveal what personal and collegial experiences have influenced the students’ perceptions.The pre-post assessment will tell us if certain classes and/or teaching methods have differentialeffects in changing social responsibly awareness. Finally, the demographic information will giveinsight into if there are differences across academic year, major, or gender for levels of socialresponsibility understanding.

Canney, N. E., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2012, June), Engineering Students' Views of the Role of Engineering in Society Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21315

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