Asee peer logo

Engineers and Accountability

Download Paper |


2022 ASEE Gulf Southwest Annual Conference


Prairie View, Texas

Publication Date

March 16, 2022

Start Date

March 16, 2022

End Date

March 18, 2022

Page Count


Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Kenneth W. Van Treuren Baylor University

visit author page

Ken Van Treuren is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering at Baylor University. He received his B. S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and his M. S. in Engineering from Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. After serving as USAF pilot in KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft, he completed his DPhil in Engineering Sciences at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom and returned to the USAF Academy to teach heat transfer and propulsion systems. At Baylor University, he teaches courses in laboratory techniques, fluid mechanics, energy systems, and propulsion systems, as well as freshman engineering. Research interests include renewable energy to include small wind turbine aerodynamics and experimental convective heat transfer as applied to HVAC and gas turbine systems.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Engineers are an important part of society. They solve problems and develop technologies which improve people’s quality of life. We use the concepts developed or items constructed by engineers every day without a second thought about their dependability or safety. Why do we have this degree of trust? It is because we know that engineers are held to a higher standard of accountability. Most engineering programs are monitored by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET accreditation provides and assurance (accountability) that a college or university meets the standards of the profession for which that program prepares graduates. Companies often seek graduates from ABET accredited engineering programs because of this assurance. While there are many disciplines in engineering, engineering is considered a profession, much like a medical doctor, and each type of engineering has a professional code of ethics. The qualities of a professional engineer are instilled in students through the academic programs from which they graduate. Many engineers, upon graduation, go through the rigorous process of professional registration. Achieving this certification also assures that the engineer has reached a level of expertise for the tasks ahead. But not all engineers choose or need to be registered. Another level of accountability in engineering are codes and standards. These provide accountability for a given task. For those not registered or who have not graduated from an accredited program, codes provide a set of rules that specify the standards for constructed objects, whether it be building an apartment complex or a commercial aircraft. These standards are found in most industries and are typically written by the engineers or professional societies associated with a particular industry. If engineers do not follow these guidelines or topics and the result is a failure that causes loss of property and/or life, the legal system is always ready to hold the engineers accountable. This brings up the issues of accountably vs responsibility. How much responsibility must an engineer take for their actions as engineers? What is the right thing to do as opposed to what is legally required? In addition to the external accountability that exists for engineers, the is also an internal, personal accountability that exists. Internalizing the professional code of ethics is a start. May people have other systems by which they live as well. Religion plays a big part in this role, whether it be Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Christianity, Taoism, and Judaism. All have a higher calling by which to live. At Baylor, a religiously affiliated Christian university, our students sense a higher standard of accountability which helps them make good choices. Baylor students feel called to the profession of engineering due because of their natural, God given, skills and talents. The work they do is really a part of their beliefs which do hold them to this higher standard than normal. If a student lives up to these standards, given by God, then they naturally satisfy all other standards for accountability. It is a matter of character which becomes important. Being an engineer then becomes a natural extension of who they are while fulfilling their God given abilities. This gives them joy in their work.

Van Treuren, K. W. (2022, March), Engineers and Accountability Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Gulf Southwest Annual Conference, Prairie View, Texas.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2022 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015