Collaborative Research: Engineering Ethics Education for Social Justice

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project aims to serve the national interest by helping engineering students understand social implications of their work. Engineering ethics are the standards that guide the professional conduct of engineers. Formal teaching of engineering ethics is often missing from undergraduate engineering programs. In addition, these ethical standards are often regarded as soft skills that do not count as engineering. The New Jersey Institute of Technology, in collaboration with the University of Florida, aims to teach students engineering ethics within a social justice context. They plan to develop and teach a new course that will help students understand how to use the power of engineering to benefit society. The new course will be implemented at both institutions and preliminary data will be collected to examine the efficacy of the course for engineering ethics education.

The project intends to accomplish the following goals: 1) design an engineering ethics course focused on justice and societal impact; 2 ) implement the course in two different institutional settings; and 3) collect preliminary data to determine the efficacy of the new course for engineering ethics education. Expected outcomes of the new engineering ethics course include improved student ability to see alternative perspectives and enhanced student capacity to make ethical decisions. The project will test the hypothesis that teaching engineering ethics in terms of justice and societal impact yields better outcomes than other approaches. The project team includes a philosopher with 15 years of experience in teaching ethics and an engineer with 22 years of experience in engineering education, making it well-qualified to undertake this research. A diverse advisory board, which includes experts in anthropology, community engagement, and science and technology studies, will provide feedback throughout the project. Given the pivotal role of ethics education in the management of the benefits of technological innovations, this research contributes to the advancement of research in service of the welfare of the American public. Engineers have the potential to benefit society in many ways, especially if they see engineering as inherently connected to societal impact. By developing courses focused on justice and societal impact, this project has the potential to transform engineering education to produce engineers focused on using the power of engineering to benefit society. This project is supported by the NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Education and Human Resources Program, which supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through the Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date1/15/2012/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $140,841.00


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