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When the Life Lesson is More Important than Course Content

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Ethical Issues II: Academic Integrity and Student Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1475.1 - 25.1475.9



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Paper Authors


Amy L. Miller University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

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Amy Miller is the Department Head and an Associate Professor of mechanical engineering technology at the University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown (UPJ). For 10 years, she worked for Johnstown America Corporation, a leading manufacturer of railroad freight cars, as a Design Engineer and Manager. She holds a M.S. in manufacturing systems engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and a B.S. in mechanical engineering technology from the University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown. Her teaching interests include fluid mechanics, machine design, and finite element methods.

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Jerry W. Samples University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

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Jerry Samples is a professor of mechanical engineering technology and former Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown (UPJ). He holds a B.S.ChE. from Clarkson College, and M.S. and Ph.D. in M.E. from Oklahoma State University. He taught at the U.S. Military Academy for 12 years before joining UPJ in 1996. His recent work has been in the area of foundations of good teaching and development of advanced teaching methods.

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When the Life Lesson is More Important than Course ContentTeaching ethics in engineering and engineering technology programs has been a growing topicfor many years and has been a subject of numerous papers.1-5 It is incumbent on the faculty toteach ethics as part of the profession and because it is a topic which is evaluated by everyone:including, ABET. As with all courses, teaching ethics is different from learning andinternalizing ethics.In every program there are times when students fail in their moral responsibilities and succumbto the easy way out. The overwhelming response to such events is assigning a failing grade andmaking the students repeat the course. What may not happen is remediation of the moral issueleading to a more ethical person. Of course, what we want as faculty and engineers is a graduatewho has the ethical underpinning that will honor the responsibilities that are listed in the NSPECode of Ethics for Engineers.6 The six canons are what we should strive to inculcate in ourstudents. Taking the course over, getting a new grade may do this but are there other ways?This paper is about a real incident and the method of resolving the ethical/moral situation infavor of the course content. It is about learning what is right by stressing what is wrong and howa practicing engineer or an engineering system could stray ethically resulting in violation of thefirst canon: Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. Those involved at thefaculty level took a chance with this resolution method and the students responded well to theprocess. The details of the incident are intentionally sketchy – the resolution procedure and thelearning are highlighted.References:1. Houston, Brian, “Ethics A Tough Choice,” Proceeding of the 2006 Annual ASEEConference and Exposition, Chicago, Il. June 20062. Alenskis, Brian, “Integrating Ethics into an Engineering Technology Course: AnInterspersed Component Approach,” Proceeding of the 1997 Annual ASEE Conference andExposition, Milwaukee, WI. June 19973. Mindek, R. B., Keyser, T. K., Musiak, R. E., Schreiner, S., Vollaro, M.B., “Integration ofEngineering Ethics Into The Curriculum: Student Performance and Feedback,” Proceeding of the2003 Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition, Nashville, TN. June 20034. Durfee, J., Loendorf, W., “Using the National Society of Professional Engineer’ (NSPE)Ethics Examination as an Assessment Tool in the Engineering Technology Curriculum,”Proceeding of the 2008 Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition, Pittsburgh, PA. June 20085. Puri, I., Culver, S., Lohani, V., “Engagement with Ethics in a Large EngineeringProgram, A Status Report,” Proceeding of the 2010 Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition,Vancouver, BC. June 20106. “NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers,”

Miller, A. L., & Samples, J. W. (2012, June), When the Life Lesson is More Important than Course Content Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22232

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