ESD.932 | Spring 2006 | Graduate

Engineering Ethics


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This course is presented in three parts: theory; case studies; and research and presentation. The greater part of the time in this course is spent in Part 2 on the engineering ethics case studies. The course will be graded from a mid-term covering Part 1 and some topics in Part 2, and from a major paper and presentation. This is a group project on a topic from Part 2, pulling together in-depth research by individuals in Part 3.

Part 1 consists in ethics, philosophy of engineering, and the engineering ethics case study methodology. Major features of Western ethics in the Greek and Latin traditions are studied. Kant, Mill, Kierkegaard and Augustine are among the readings. Ties from the West to other cultural traditions are made by the narrative approach to ethics with emphasis on mythic stories. Joseph Campbell is principal consultant. Philosophy of engineering is laid down in the four major categories of philosophy: metaphysics, ethics, epistemology and education. Readings include, respectively: Aristotle’s The Metaphysics; Pinkus’ Engineering Ethics; Vincenti’s What Engineers Know And How They Know It; B. V. Koen’s Discussion of the Method; and Harvard University’s General Education in a Free Society and ASEE’s Grinter Report.

Part 2 consists in engineering ethics case studies. Historical cases are taken primarily from the scholarly literatures on engineering ethics, and hypothetical cases are written by students. Each student will write a story by selecting an ancestor or mythic hero as a substitute for a character in a historical case. Students will compare these cases and recommend action. Readings include: Harris’ Engineering Ethics; and Broome’s The Concrete Sumo.

Part 3 readies the students for their major papers. Cases are selected and teams are organized around them. The cases are studied in-depth in pairs of approaches as was done in Part 2. The in-depth studies are assigned by the team, but conducted by individuals. Dry runs for the presentations are conducted.

Course Level

This course is a graduate level course, and is open to undergraduates with the instructor’s permission.

Course Calendar

Topics for the lectures are as follows.

Instructors: TB = Dr. Taft Broome

Part 1: Theory
1 Introduction to the Course: Purpose, Objectives, Scope, Methods, Discussion TB
2 Introduction to Ethics I TB
3 Introduction to Ethics II; Initial Discussion of B. F. Goodrich Case TB
4 Introduction to Philosophy of Engineering I Prof. Joel Moses
5 Introduction to Philosophy of Engineering II TB
6 Introduction to Engineering Ethics: Codes of Ethics, Whistle Blowing, Case Study Methodology TB
7 Case Studies: Finish Challenger Case; Ford Pinto Case TB
Part 2: Case Studies
8 Case Studies: Chernobyl, Three Mile Island TB
9 Case Studies (cont.): News Articles TB
10 Case Studies: Chernobyl, Three Mile Island (cont.) TB
11 Case Studies: B. F. Goodrich A7D Air Force Brakes TB
12 First Principles of Engineering Ethics TB

Mid Term

13 Solving Ethical Problems: Discussion of Heroes, Journeys, and Virtue in Mythology TB
14 Individual, Professional, and Institutional Values Prof. Sheila Widnall
15 Leadership in Engineering and Industry TB
16 Competency with Good Character TB
17 Recap of Semester so Far; Introduction to Codes of Ethics TB
18 Codes of Ethics (cont.) TB
19 Safety; Introduction to Narrative Ethics TB
20 Ethical Terminology TB
Part 3: Research Projects
21 Planning for Public Seminar; Terminology (cont.) TB
22 Public Seminar on Narrative Ethics

Purpose: to initiate a systematic approach to the problems of identifying cross-cultural issues in the ethical education of science and engineering students, and extract from these issues lessons that may enhance the research experience in the globalization process

TB with Prof. Segun Gbadegesin, Howard University
23 Human Flourishing TB
24 Student Presentation Students

Final Exam: Final Written Report

Grading Policy

Class Participation 10%
Homework 25%
Early Presentation 20%
Final Presentation 20%
Final Written Report 25%

Instructor Biography

Dr. Taft Broome is the Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor during the Spring 2006 term.

Dr. Broome holds an Sc.D., which he received from George Washington University in 1972. A Professor of Engineering at Howard University, he has served there as Chair of the Civil Engineering Department and Chair of the University Senate.

Dr. Broome has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in civil and environmental engineering, focusing on structures and vibrations. His research centers on continuous and combined dynamical systems; ethics and philosophy of engineering; character and development; and race and techno-citizenship. He has published extensively in these areas.

Dr. Broome is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Rensselaer Alumni Fellow, and he has served in leadership positions at the national level in more than a dozen scholarly and professional societies. He has received numerous awards from student organizations for outstanding teaching and service, and is faculty advisor of Howard University’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

Dr. Broome has been a visiting professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Duke University and a summer research fellow at NASA and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2006
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Audio