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Using The National Society Of Professional Engineers’ (Nspe) Ethics Examination As An Assessment Tool In The Engineering Technology Curriculum

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics III

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1365.1 - 13.1365.7



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Paper Authors


Jason Durfee Eastern Washington University

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Jason Durfee is currently an Assistant Professor of Engineering & Design at Eastern Washington University. He received his BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University. He holds a Professional Engineer certification. Prior to teaching at Eastern Washington University, he was a military pilot, an engineering instructor at West Point and an airline pilot. His interests include aerospace, aviation, computational fluid dynamics, professional ethics, and piano technology.

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William Loendorf Eastern Washington University

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WILLIAM R. LOENDORF is currently an Associate Professor of Engineering & Design at Eastern Washington University. He obtained his B.Sc. in Engineering Science at the University of Wisconsin - Parkside, M.S. in Electrical Engineering at Colorado State University, and M.B.A. at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds a Professional Engineer certification and was previously an Engineering Manager at Motorola. His interests include engineering management, real-time embedded systems, and digital signal processing.

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



In an effort to better assess our students’ understanding of professional ethics, our engineering and technology department has been utilizing materials from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Specifically, we provide each student with a copy of the NSPE Code of Ethics and use an examination on this code, also provided by NSPE. These materials are available on the NSPE website. A solution to the exam with cross-references to the applicable NSPE Code of Ethics is also available. Our department uses this exam in the senior capstone course in order to get an overall picture of the depth of professional ethics understanding among our senior class of students. The capstone course combines students from multiple disciplines, including: Mechanical Engineering Technology, Computer Engineering Technology, Technology-Design, Technology-Manufacturing, and Technology-Construction Management. The use of the exam accomplishes a few objectives. First, it provides an assessment on student understanding of professional ethics for students that are nearing graduation. As such, it provides feedback as to the efficacy and depth of coverage of ethics principles that students have been taught throughout their four year academic career. Second, it creates a springboard for additional discussion of ethics. These capstone students are seniors and most have recently completed internships out in the ‘real world’ and this brings more depth and insight to these discussions than often happens in lower-level courses. And third, it provides the students with some motivation and resources for life-long learning in the area of professional ethics. This paper will discuss how the exam is used in the course as well as some results and observations from its use.


Engineering Technology students spend a substantial amount of time studying mathematics, physics, and engineering sciences. However, precious little of their time is actually spent learning about the possible social, moral, political, and economic ramifications of their future work. It is also interesting to note that some of the greatest thrusts by professional societies are in codes, safety, and professional ethics; topics that often get very little coverage in a technical program of study. In order to strengthen the educational process, these important engineering aspects are commonly combined into the general topic of professional ethics.

As the complexity of the products engineers design increases so does the need for further study into both the theoretical and realistic awareness and application of professional ethics. During their careers all engineers will be challenged by situations requiring design tradeoffs involving cost, schedule, and quality issues. Some of the solutions will be straightforward while others will be difficult forcing the engineer to utilize their best judgment. Unfortunately, in many cases these decisions are made without the benefit of adequate training and have resulted in negative or unanticipated results.

Durfee, J., & Loendorf, W. (2008, June), Using The National Society Of Professional Engineers’ (Nspe) Ethics Examination As An Assessment Tool In The Engineering Technology Curriculum Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3231

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