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Introduction Of Contemporary Engineering Ethics Issues In A Freshman Engineering Course

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Ethics Integration in the Engineering Curriculum

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.838.1 - 11.838.13



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Paper Authors


Jenny Lo Virginia Tech

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Jenny Lo is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She is the co-coordinator of the first semester engineering course and is interested in curriculum development, engineering ethics, and undergraduate research efforts.

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Vinod Lohani Virginia Tech

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Vinod Lohani is an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He is the co-coordinator of the first semester engineering course and has multiple interests including international collaborations, curricular reform, and development of lab experiences for freshmen.

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Jennifer Mullin Virginia Tech

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Jennifer Mullin is a graduate student in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Student Presentations on Contemporary Engineering Ethics Issues in an Introductory Freshman Engineering Course


This paper presents summary of changes that were introduced in “ethics” instruction in a freshman year introductory engineering course at Virginia Tech. While ethics is 10% of the course content, substantial changes were made to the course curriculum in fall 2005 so that 1200 students could be better engaged in learning ethics material. Parts of these changes are attributed to an NSF supported department-level reform (DLR) project. Traditionally, ethics instruction in the course included reading assignments and video presentations. However, this year, a presentation assignment was developed for the course’s 32-seat workshops. Groups of 3 to 6 students were assigned one of eight recent topics: 1) levee construction in New Orleans 2) looting and government response in New Orleans 3) debris removal in New Orleans 4) contamination issues in New Orleans 5) rebuilding New Orleans 6) Asian tsunami of December 2004 7) San Francisco and earthquake preparedness and 8) Galveston and hurricanes. For each topic, groups were given instructions regarding subjects and questions to address. During a workshop period, each team was allowed 6 minutes to present and 2 minutes to answer questions. The main goals of this assignment were to increase freshmen students’ engagement in technical communication and teamwork and to boost awareness of current events and ethics. Surveys revealed students’ opinions and showed that the changes to how ethics is taught at Virginia Tech is well-received by many students.

1.0 Background

At Virginia Tech, all engineering freshmen enter as General Engineering (GE) students and are transferred to a degree-granting department when they have successfully completed a required set of courses. The GE program is conducted by the faculty in the Department of Engineering Education (EngE). A number of EngE faculty, including Lo and Lohani, have been collaborating with faculty members in other engineering departments and the school of education to undertake reformulation of the GE program using a spiral curriculum approach1. This effort is part of a department-level reform (DLR) project from the NSF. One of the spiraling themes relates to “ethics.” The intended approach is to cover general ethics related topics reflecting contemporary engineering issues in the GE program and include discipline specific “ethics” issues in upper level courses. Faculty members from the Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) department are participating in this DLR project and are working with EngE faculty to reformulate the curriculum of the bioprocess option within the BSE using spiral approach. A companion paper gives brief description of BSE related new “ethics” topics that have been developed to serve the proposed spiral approach.2 The present paper presents a brief summary of “ethics” related changes that have been introduced in an introductory engineering course that is a part of the GE program.

Lo, J., & Lohani, V., & Mullin, J. (2006, June), Introduction Of Contemporary Engineering Ethics Issues In A Freshman Engineering Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1153

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