About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 9476-9485
Publication year: 2017
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0790

Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain

THE INTEGRATION OF ETHICS INTO THE ENGINEERING CAPSTONE DESIGN COURSE

L.O. Jimenez-Rodriguez

University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (PUERTO RICO)
Currently there is an ongoing effort to bring social, environmental and ethical issues into the whole spectrum of engineering practice. Many engineering codes of ethics (e.g., IEEE, NSPE, etc.) clearly state that the engineering profession must take seriously into consideration ethical aspects such as safety, environmental protection, health and the welfare of the public. However, there is not enough systematic reflection about the integration of ethics into engineering design. Engineering design is one of the most fundamental activities in engineering practice. It directly connects scientific knowledge and technological development with major personal, social, economic and environmental implications. Therefore, engineering students need to be exposed to the integration of ethics in engineering design.
This paper will present a module that introduces students to a method that integrates ethics into the engineering design process. This module is taught in an Engineering Capstone Design Course in the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. The method seeks to uncover early enough possible ethical problems in the design process. This provides better options than the mere applications of a harm reduction protocol after the facts. Another objective is to provide tools that enable engineering students to evaluate different possible solutions from an ethical perspective.

In the paper three moments are distinguished in the engineering design process:
(1) problem identification,
(2) invention or development of a concrete solution (e.g., prototype, process or algorithm) and
(3) the manufacturing process.

In the first moment (1), engineers analyze and formulate the problem and envision different possible solutions. Engineers must analyze all possible solutions to uncover possible ethical consequences on stakeholders (e.g., clients, peers, communities, companies, the environment and society at large).
The second moment (2) includes a list of specifications and requirements. These specifications need to be optimized with respect to cost, time, safety, economic considerations, materials, sustainability, among others. Here the designer confronts the reality that not all specifications can be optimized independently of each other. There is a trade-off between requirements. Consequently, engineers have to make decisions that are seldom purely technical or a mere individual dilemma. Design choices are social and ethical that could produce personal, social or environmental consequences.

The third moment (3) is related to the optimization of the production costs, time, safety and the choice of materials. At each moment (1-3) engineers must elaborate multiple possible solutions that are feasible from a technical and ethical perspective. The module encourages students to be creative and to avoid be fixed with one initial solution.

Finally, the module includes a series of ethical tests that enable engineers to evaluate, from an ethical perspective, all possible solutions in each design moment. Three proposed tests summarize three philosophical perspectives: utilitarianism, deontology and virtue ethics. A fourth proposed test is the application of professional codes of ethics. This method integrates engineers’ creativity, preventive ethics, environmental ethics, theoretical ethics and professional codes of ethics with the practice of a deliberation process. The paper will present results of an assessment performed to validate the method and the module.
@InProceedings{JIMENEZRODRIGUEZ2017INT,
author = {Jimenez-Rodriguez, L.O.},
title = {THE INTEGRATION OF ETHICS INTO THE ENGINEERING CAPSTONE DESIGN COURSE},
series = {9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN17 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-697-3777-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2017.0790},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2017.0790},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {3-5 July, 2017},
year = {2017},
pages = {9476-9485}}
TY - CONF
AU - L.O. Jimenez-Rodriguez
TI - THE INTEGRATION OF ETHICS INTO THE ENGINEERING CAPSTONE DESIGN COURSE
SN - 978-84-697-3777-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0790
PY - 2017
Y1 - 3-5 July, 2017
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN17 Proceedings
SP - 9476
EP - 9485
ER -
L.O. Jimenez-Rodriguez (2017) THE INTEGRATION OF ETHICS INTO THE ENGINEERING CAPSTONE DESIGN COURSE, EDULEARN17 Proceedings, pp. 9476-9485.
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