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First-Year Engineering Students and Ethical Analysis

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Issues Part One

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.720.1 - 22.720.12



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Paper Authors


Gretchen L. Hein Michigan Technological University

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Dr. Hein is actively involved with developing and implementing new material and strategies in first-year engineering courses. Additionally, she is interested in how student learning and creativity changes as they progress through their first-year courses.

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Amber Kemppainen Michigan Technological University

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First-Year Engineering Students and Ethical AnalysisEach year 800 first-year engineering students at THE UNIVERSITY study engineering ethics.These same students complete some type of engineering design project. What would happen ifthese students explored the ethical issues surrounding their design topic? Would theirunderstanding and application of ethics improve? Would their ability to analyze ethical casestudies improve? Traditionally, students first learn about engineering ethics and ethical decisionmaking and then apply these concepts in analyzing typical introductory engineering ethics casestudies.At THE UNIVERSITY, the effect of integrating engineering ethics into the semester-long designproject was explored in four sections of a first-year engineering course. Within the four sections(approximately 160 students), there were three design projects: Wind Energy, Aquaculture andBiomechanics. The specific design project was integrated into all aspects of the course. Forexample, students learned about unit conversions through completing design project relatedcalculations. Engineering ethics topics were designed the same way. Students investigated thepotential ethical decisions that would result from the design, manufacture, use, and disposal oftheir projects. Students learned about the techniques of ethical decision making and applied theseskills to the ethical issues surrounding their design project. As a team, they analyzed not onlytheir design topic, but an unrelated ethics case study.To determine if completing ethical analyses related to their design work affected studentunderstanding and application of engineering ethics, students’ knowledge of ethics was assessedprior to learning about engineering ethics. The students were post-assessed regarding theirknowledge of engineering ethics. The results of this small-scale study will be described, alongwith the design projects and their related ethical issues. Student comments regarding the ethicsand their understanding of engineering ethics will also be explored.

Hein, G. L., & Kemppainen, A. (2011, June), First-Year Engineering Students and Ethical Analysis Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18001

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