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Training Graduate Engineering Students in Ethics

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Innovative Approaches to Ethics Instruction

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Mohamed B. Trabia University of Nevada - Las Vegas

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Dr. Mohamed Trabia currently serves as the Associate Dean for Research, Graduate Studies, and Computing at the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He is also a Professor of Mechanical Engineering since 2000.

Dr. Trabia received his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering from Alexandria University, Egypt in 1980 and 1983 respectively. He was awarded a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Arizona State University, USA, in 1987. Since then he joined the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as an Assistant Professor.

His research interests include design and optimization of mechanical systems, characterization of material properties under dynamic loading, system identification and control of smart actuators. Dr. Trabia has been the author of more than 150 technical journal and conference papers. He was involved with multiple funded research grants with total budget exceeding 6 million dollars.

Dr. Trabia is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Dr. Trabia has received multiple awards recognizing his teaching, research, and service efforts including, the ASME Dedicated Service Award.

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Julie A. Longo University of Nevada - Las Vegas

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Julie Longo joined UNLV’s Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering as their Technical Writer in October 2010. Her primary responsibilities include helping faculty prepare papers for publication as well as technical reports to funding agencies, and presenting workshops on technical writing as well as ethics in engineering. She has a B.S. in Biology from Rutgers University and an M.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Longo has worked in Technical Communications for most of her career. In 1976, she was a Senior Editor in Life Sciences on the first editorial board for an Elsevier subsidiary, Academic American Encyclopedia, known today as New Grolier. For almost 15 years, she worked at Lockheed Martin and its predecessors as an Engineering Writer. In that position, she helped engineers publish papers, chapters, and books; edited and wrote manuals as well as other documentation; served as contributing editor for the RCA Engineer journal;, and edited the AEGIS Newsletter for the U.S. Navy. She wrote and produced over 100 technical videos, most of which are housed in the U.S. National Archives. She received the prestigious AEGIS Excellence Award from the U.S. Navy in 1990 for her years of contribution to that program, and became an Associate Member of the U.S. Naval Institute. She wrote a major article on “Video Production” for Wiley Encyclopedia of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (print in 1999; web in 2001). From 1996 to 2003, she ran a consulting firm that provided technical communication services to such organizations as PSE&G Nuclear, City of Philadelphia’s Department of Energy, and Sarnoff Corporation.

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Susan Wainscott University of Nevada - Las Vegas Orcid 16x16

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Susan Wainscott is the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Librarian for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. She holds a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose State University and a Master of Science in Biological Sciences from Illinois State University. As liaison librarian to several departments at UNLV, she teaches information literacy for many students, provides reference assistance to the campus and community, and maintains the collection in assigned subject areas. Her current research interests include information literacy instruction and assessment, the impact of student affect on learning, data literacy, and data management planning.

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The [unit name] College of Engineering at the [university name] has four active graduate degree programs with a diverse population, including a sizable international component. Faculty felt that a rigorous training in ethics was needed to better prepare incoming students for successful graduate studies and to be prepared for working professionally after graduation. Therefore, a workshop was developed that covered four major topics: Research Ethics, Computer Coding Ethics, Publishing Ethics, and Intellectual Property, which covered copyright law, patent law, and trade secrets. In order to develop this ethics workshop, some of the more successful ethics instructions at U.S. engineering programs were investigated. The international composition of the engineering graduate student population at [university name] was considered during the planning stage to ensure that students would become familiar with the cultural norms for ethics within the U.S.

The first hour of the workshop consisted of an introduction by the Associate Dean [full title] regarding the importance of understanding the need for making informed ethical decisions, followed by a lecture that introduced definitions for relevant key terms, including ethics, plagiarism, and copyright. This was followed by a brief introduction of the four ethics topics listed above. The lecture established a common basis of understanding for the remainder of the workshop. Further, this portion made the participants better prepared to ask questions during the second half of the workshop, which was an open discussion with a panel of experts drawn from across the university, including the [university name]’s [unit name] School of Law, and engineering faculty. The moderator of this question-and-answer session prepared discussion prompts, which were augmented by anonymous questions submitted by the participants on index cards during the workshop. At the end of the workshop, each participant received a flash drive with the lecture slides, a document containing written answers provided by the panelists, a bibliography, and resource materials for all four ethics topics.

Two assessment tools of the workshop were used: • An optional pre-workshop survey, consisting of four questions drawn from the four ethics topics; • A required post-workshop survey that had the same pre-workshop survey questions as well as an opportunity to provide feedback.

Preliminary results included: 1) Significant support for continuing to offer the workshop from the [university name] engineering faculty panelists, particularly Electrical and Computer Engineering, Construction, and Mechanical Engineering faculty 2) A good level of attendance by both new and returning graduate students. 3) Results from the pre and post survey questions indicated an improved understanding of ethics within the context of engineering graduate studies. Based on the pilot test of this workshop in May 2015 and the first two sessions rolled out in Fall 2015, it was decided to offer the workshops to incoming graduate students within the college. The focus of current activities includes evaluating the workshops and refining the agenda of future ones.

Trabia, M. B., & Longo, J. A., & Wainscott, S. (2016, June), Training Graduate Engineering Students in Ethics Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27072

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