Engineering is a field that carries significant responsibilities. As professional engineers we have the power to shape the world around us through our designs and innovations. With this power comes the ethical obligation to ensure that our work benefits society and does not harm it, as stated in the NJSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers. To instill this sense of ethical responsibility in future engineers, engineering schools and programs around the world have integrated ethics into their curriculum. In this blog post, we will examine how engineering education incorporates ethical requirements to prepare the engineers of tomorrow.
The Importance of Ethical Engineering
Before diving into how ethics is integrated into engineering education, it’s essential to understand why it matters. Ethical considerations in engineering are not just a theoretical concept; they have real-world consequences. Engineers make decisions that affect public safety, environmental sustainability, and societal well-being. Without a strong ethical foundation, engineering can lead to unintended negative outcomes and even death.
Consider, for instance, the design and construction of bridges, buildings, and transportation systems. Engineers are responsible for ensuring the safety of these structures. A failure to prioritize ethics in engineering can lead to catastrophic consequences, as seen in historical disasters like the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.
Integrating Ethics into Engineering Curriculum
Many engineering programs now require students to take dedicated courses in engineering ethics. These courses cover topics such as ethical decision-making, professional responsibility, and case studies of ethical dilemmas in engineering practice. These classes provide students with a solid foundation in ethical principles, but the learning does not end there. New Jersey professional engineers are required to earn 24 PDH biennially. Two of these credit hours must be in the area of ethics.
NJSPE currently offers two ethics courses, both available to members and non members.
Professional Engineering Ethics (1 PDH). The course description reads: “Engineers will learn about industry-related professional and statutory codes of ethics to indoctrinate ethics awareness and an understanding of ethical standards common to all jurisdictions, so that the participants understand the boundaries of ethical engineering behavior. Seminar will include an Introduction to common statutory and regulatory ethics rules; review of the National Society of Professional Engineers Code of Ethics with examples of common ethics rules, and illustrative case studies to consider, with emphasis on the similarities and difference between governmental and professional society sanctions. framework to make choices that benefit society and uphold the highest standards of professionalism.
Professional Engineering Ethics 101 (2 PDH) The learning objective is to expose the seminar participants to various engineering related professional and statutory codes of ethics to indoctrinate ethics awareness and an understanding of ethical standards common to all jurisdictions, including those of the participants, so that the participants understand the boundaries of ethical engineering behavior. The program is broken into several parts. Introduction to common statutory and regulatory ethics rules; review of the National Society of Professional Engineers Code of Ethics with examples of common ethics rules, illustrative case studies to consider, with emphasis on the similarities and difference between governmental and professional society sanctions; practical reasons for ethical practice, how unethical practice can present professional liability, legal, licensure, moral and public health, safety and welfare issues.
The importance of Ethics in engineering can not be overstated, and dedicated courses are vital for its practical application in daily life, despite the code’s apparent simplicity. These professional development courses play a pivotal role in providing guidance through real-life cases that have been examined by the Board of Ethical Review. They offer valuable insights into the intricacies of the code and demonstrate how it can be applied to facilitate improved decision-making.
In conclusion, the realm of professional engineering is a domain of immense responsibility, where our innovations have the power to shape the world around us. With this privilege comes an ethical obligation, as articulated in the NJSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers, to ensure that our work serves the betterment of society while avoiding harm. The importance of ethical engineering cannot be underestimated, as the decisions we make bear tangible consequences for public safety, environmental well-being, and societal progress. By integrating ethics into engineering education, through dedicated courses and lifelong learning opportunities, we lay the foundation for future engineers to navigate the complex terrain of ethical decision-making. These educational efforts empower engineers to understand the nuances of ethical principles, to appreciate the practical relevance of these principles in daily professional life, and to draw wisdom from real-world ethical cases. As we journey forward, it is through this commitment to ethical engineering that we not only secure the integrity of our profession but also contribute to a world that is safer, more just, and morally steadfast.
Do you have a concept for an ethics course that you believe should be offered by NJSPE.org? Reach out today at email@example.com or call 609-393-0099 to share your ideas!
As the global population looks to rise to 10 billion people by 2050, the demand for sustainable engineering practices has never been higher. The engineers of tomorrow will play a vital role in creating an environment that can sustain our world of the future and that starts by incorporating sustainable practices and renewable technologies today. Here are just some of the ways engineering is creating solutions today to address environmental challenges and propel our world into the future.
Sustainability in engineering is based on the paradigm of considering the long term impact of projects today on the environment and society of tomorrow. This means using resources efficiently, minimizing waste, reducing the carbon footprint, and creating a healthier living environment.
These practices use life-cycle thinking in all their engineering activities which help to predict the potential environmental impacts of projects and ensures that all materials, inputs and outputs are as safe and benign as possible. This includes minimizing the depletion of natural resources and looking to prevent waste wherever possible. This is a more holistic mindset towards engineering, considering both the present project as well as the future impacts to the environment. By making all of these considerations, engineers can reduce environmental impact at every stage and level of a project.
An obvious aspect of green engineering is using renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and water power. By integrating these energy sources at every stage of the project, it reduces the carbon footprint overall. With a transition away from fossil fuels more important than ever before, establishing reliable sources of renewable energy with a high output will be critical for engineering in the future. Using renewable energy now sets the stage for the future to build on this and reduce environmental impact even more. In addition, incorporating sustainable materials and processes in engineering design can also reduce the impact on the environment.
Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, one area of engineering that spiked in popularity was renewable energy. People all across the globe began to incorporate these technologies into their daily lives as we all processed the chaos of 2020. Now that renewable energy has become the new normal, it is more important than ever for engineers to continue this culture shift and create more renewable energy resources for our society of tomorrow.
Here are just a few engineering projects to keep an eye on throughout the rest of 2023 that will satisfy the needs of energy consumers all over Europe and the rest of the world.
1: Solaris’ Proteus
This project is taking solar energy to a whole new level. Normally, solar power has a limit based on the lack of ability to track the angle of the sun. To correct this, SolarisFloat, a Portuguese renewable energy company, plans to develop solar farms across Europe that can track the sun’s movement. This sun tracking feature will allow the solar panels to rotate, yielding a 40% increase in energy production compared to normal panels.
2: The EU’s REGACE Agrivoltaic Project
Often when solar panels are installed on rooftops of greenhouses or on farmland, they take space and sunlight away from plants and farming. This project, headed by the Israeli company Trisolar, is creating a solution to this. New solar panels are being developed that can control the amount of sunlight that passes through to plants below as well as increase the amount of solar power absorbed to be used as renewable energy.
3: Repsol’s Delta II Wind Project
Repsol, a Spanish renewable energy company, began this project in 2021 and it is expected to be completed and operational by 2023. This comprises six wind farms and when fully running, it will have the capacity to supply nearly 800,000 homes across Spain with renewable energy. What’s more, this project is estimated to prevent the emission of over 2.6 million tons of CO2 annually.
This is just a few of the ways that engineers are creating more renewable energy sources for the world of tomorrow. Transitioning to these energy sources as a global movement will stabilize the energy needs of the future as well as preserve our environment in the process.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing many industries and engineering is no different. AI is revolutionizing engineering by analyzing big data, designing improved products, optimizing processes, and cutting costs. This blog examines current engineering applications of AI, its potential future impact, and the opportunities and challenges it presents.
AI is already being used in a variety of engineering applications, including:
The impact of AI on the future of engineering will be significant. Some of the key benefits include:
While AI presents many opportunities for engineering, there are also some challenges to be addressed. These include:
Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of AI in engineering are significant. According to a report by McKinsey, AI could add $13 trillion to the global economy by 2030. It is clear that AI will play a major role in the future of engineering, and engineers who embrace this technology will be well-placed to succeed. What are you thoughts on using AI? Do you agree this is the way of the future?
New Jersey professional engineers are required to earn 24 PDH biennially. Two of these credit hours must be in the area of ethics. All of the required hours can be earned through online continuing education courses. Continuing Education is known as continuing professional competency (CPC) in New Jersey. All New Jersey engineering licenses are renewed on April 30th of even numbered years.
NJSPE currently offers an ethics course titled “PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERING ETHICS 101”
This course is available to NJSPE members for $35 dollars and to nonmembers for $50.
You can register and complete the course HERE.
Objective of Course
The learning objective is to expose the seminar participants to various engineering related professional and statutory codes of ethics to indoctrinate ethics awareness and an understanding of ethical standards common to all jurisdictions, including those of the participants, so that the participants understand the boundaries of ethical engineering behavior. The program is broken into several parts. Introduction to common statutory and regulatory ethics rules; review of the National Society of Professional Engineers Code of Ethics with examples of common ethics rules, illustrative case studies to consider, with emphasis on the similarities and difference between governmental and professional society sanctions; practical reasons for ethical practice, how unethical practice can present professional liability, legal, licensure, moral and public health, safety and welfare issues.
Professional engineers make a commitment to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. In your career you may encounter moments that test your resolve and promise to the public and to yourselves. Sometimes, the easy decision might be the hard path to take, but you must ensure to always follow the NJSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers.
Below are some notable real world examples of why engineers need ethics and when whistleblowing is the ethical thing to do:
The Challenger Disaster – engineers noticed the booster rockets on the shuttle would not seal properly in cold temperatures. Despite warning their managers, they watched as the shuttle launched, and 73 seconds later, it exploded killing the seven astronauts onboard.
Should they have become whistleblowers to prevent the launch? Vivian Weil of Illinois Institute of Technology reviews in this NSPE article.
MedTech’s Infant Respirators – Sam Wilson, an engineer at MedTech, found the valves on the company’s infant respirators were not able to protect from overpressure. After twice bringing this to the attention of his managers, he was fired after saying he would report the problem.
By following the code of ethics that binds professional engineers, Sam won his wrongful discharge suit.
Sometimes, when working for a company for a long time or developing friendships with managers or our co-workers, you may find it difficult to address a problem, even if it seems minor. For new engineers, the difficulty may be the worry about job security. No matter the scenario, it is gravely important that engineers follow the code of ethics.
When navigating difficult scenarios, remember that following the NJSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers, you will result in having society and the law on your side.
When we became professional engineers and joined the New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers, we made a commitment to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. In our careers, we will encounter moments that test our resolve and promise to the public and to ourselves. Sometimes, the easy decision might be the hard path to take, but we must ensure to always follow the NJSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers.
Below are some notable real world examples of why engineers need ethics and when whistleblowing is the ethical thing to do:
Sometimes, when working for a company for a long time or developing friendships with managers or our co-workers, we may find it difficult to address a problem, even if it seems minor. For new engineers, the difficulty may be the worry about job security. No matter the scenario, it is gravely important engineers follow our code of ethics. Below are some more real world examples reported by Steven H. Unger of Columbia University, which all ended in wrongful termination suits:
When navigating these difficult scenarios, you should know by following the NJSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers, you will have the society and the law on your side.
The field of engineering is constantly evolving to meet the demands of a changing society. This means that the old ethical rules may need to develop with the times. Staying up to date with engineering ethics is an essential part of furthering your career in this field.
Many fields have a set of ethical guidelines, and engineering is no exception. These guidelines give advice on how a professional should conduct themselves. Engineering ethics create a framework for decision-making and dealing with potential conflicts. If you’d like to refresh your knowledge, please view our code of ethics here.
The most fundamental principle is to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of the public. As professional engineers, it is our job to protect the public by only approving engineering documents that utilize the safest and most ethical practices available. Other important principles include:
It’s important to have a measured response when facing a difficult situation like this. According to the National Society of Professional Engineer’s ethics study guide, there are nine steps to ethical engineering decisions. You can read about them in detail here, but the overall principles are to:
Another important aspect of engineering ethics is how to handle an ethical dilemma with your employer. This can be a difficult balancing act, and your options are listed here.
The New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers (NJSPE) is one of the leading experts in this area. If you’d like to advance the discourse on how ethics can be applied to the field of engineering, consider attending our upcoming continuing education course on April 29. We will be offering ethics credits.
We welcome people of all backgrounds and stages of their career. Your unique perspective can help us further the field of engineering ethics. If you also become a member, you’ll have access to a wide range of benefits, from updates on the law to online seminars. Come by our website to learn more.
Ethics is an important topic for engineers of every level and field. When you become a professional engineer, however, you are held to a higher standard. That is why one of the requirements for maintaining your professional engineers’ license is to meet a certain number of professional development hours with at least two being in ethics.
As professional engineers, we are trusted with projects that impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The NJSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers is a document that was put together to help us keep that fact in mind and be a guiding factor in making hard decisions during our careers. The code of ethics can be summed up with two key points that we will explore in more depth: safety and honesty.
Safety is Key
The preamble to the NJSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers states that engineers “require honesty, impartiality, fairness, and equity, and must be dedicated to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare.” When it comes to ethics as a professional engineer, it is about so much more than preventing illegal activity. It is about making sure the lives we touch with our work are protected from incompetence and are at the forefront of our minds as we work.
Even the parts of the Code of Ethics for Professional Engineers that deal with honesty and integrity go back to safety issues. The things we help design, build, and maintain could result in a loss of life if we put profits, personal advancement, or anything else in front of people.
Integrity and Honesty
Another important reason to have a code of ethics for professional engineers is it sets a standard for professional behavior. You know you can expect another PE to behave with honesty and integrity since they adhere to the same creed as you. The public can also be assured you are not pulling a fast one or working for your own gain. The standard of professional behavior provides the people who you work with and for a foundation of trust that you are going to operate in the project’s and public’s best interest.
While the code of ethics seems fairly straightforward and clear cut, having courses about it are important for navigating your day-to-day. The professional development classes help guide you through real life cases that have come before the Board of Ethical Review, so you can see the nuances of the code and how it can be used to make better decisions.
We hope this brief overview of why ethics are important for professional engineers has made you eager to learn more. You can read the full code of ethics by visiting the NJSPE’s ethics page or by attending one of NSPE’s ethics webinars. If you would like to see more content about the importance of ethics, please feel free to let us know in the comments below or by filling out our “Ask NJSPE” form.