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ENGR 107: Engineering Fundamentals


... unless it inflicts no harm', Adm H.G. Rickover, father of the US nuclear navy. ... During hot gas blow-by, seals (O-rings) would erode (be 'eaten' away) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: ENGR 107: Engineering Fundamentals

ENGR 107 Engineering Fundamentals
  • Lecture 3
  • Engineering Ethics
  • C. Schaefer
  • September 9, 2002

  • Ethics in Engineering 2nd Edition, Mike W.
    Martin and Roland Schinzinger, McGraw-Hill, Inc.,
  • Engineering Ethics Concepts and Cases, 2nd
    Edition, C. Harris, M. Pritchard, and M. Rabins,
    Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2000.

Engineering Ethics
  • Technology can have no legitimacy unless it
    inflicts no harm, Adm H.G. Rickover, father of
    the US nuclear navy.
  • What does Adm. Rickover mean by this?
  • Should engineers avoid technology that has the
    potential for ______ inflicting harm on a
    society or its members? Possibly? likely?
  • Engineers have an ethical and social
    responsibility to themselves, their clients, and
    to society.
  • Practically (although there is much debate about
    this), engineering ethics is about balancing
    cost, schedule, and risk.

Engineering Ethics
  • Engineering ethics is
  • the study of moral issues and decisions
    confronting individuals and organizations
    involved in engineering,
  • the study of related questions about moral
    conduct, character, ideals, and relationships of
    people and organizations involved in
    technological development.

General Terms
  • Ethics critical reflection on what one does and
    why one does it.
  • Morality social conventions about right and
    wrong conduct.
  • Descriptive ethics (non-normative) factual
    investigation of moral behavior and beliefs,
    i.e., the study not of what people ought to do
    but how they reason and how they act.

General Terms
  • Normative ethics (general) Which action
    guides are worthy of moral acceptance and for
    what reasons? Action guides include theories,
    principles, rules, and maxims.
  • Normative ethics (applied) Professional codes
    of ethics that specify role norms or obligations
    that professions attempt to enforce.
  • Tacit ethic unsaid, unspoken rule of practice.

Ethics Nomenclature
  • Meta-ethics theories about ethics.
  • Normative ethics recommendations of standards
    and guidelines for morally right or good
  • engineering ethics (and professional ethics, in
    general) are normative in nature.
  • Ethical relativism ethics relative to specific
    culture or society.
  • Ethical absolutism same ethical standards apply
    to all societies and cultures.

Training in Preventive Ethics
  • Stimulating the moral imagination
  • Recognizing ethical issues
  • Developing analytical skills
  • Eliciting a sense of responsibility
  • Tolerating disagreement and ambiguity

  • Should we judge what is ethical by a relative or
    absolute standard? Why or why not?
  • But which (whose) moral standard do we use to
    judge these things?
  • Is the Engineering Code of Ethics relativistic or

Organizing Principles to Resolving Ethical Issues
  • Utilitarian thinking a standard that promotes
    those individual actions or rules that produce
    the greatest total amount of utility to those
  • A code that enjoins engineers to promote the
    safety, health, and welfare of the public.
  • What is utility, though? Happiness?
  • Preference utilitarianism promote those
    conditions that allow each individual to pursue
    happiness as he or she conceives it.
  • Two conditions necessary for this freedom and
  • Practically, for engineers, this advocates
    cost/benefit analyses.

Problems with Utilitarianism
  • Difficult to quantify benefits for ALL those
  • Greatest good difficult to apply to an
    all-inclusive population.
  • Someone gets shafted approach justifies
    perpetrating injustice on individuals, i.e.,
    someone gets left out.
  • Three approaches
  • Cost/benefit quantifiable approach. Maximize
    positive utilities (benefits) against negative
    utilities (costs).
  • Act utilitarian will the course of action
    produce more good than any alternative course of
    action that I could take?
  • Rule utilitarian would utility be maximized if
    everyone did the same thing in the same
    circumstances? Adoption of commonly accepted

The Ethics of Respect for Persons
  • Those actions or rules are right that, if
    followed, would accord equal respect to each
    person as a moral agent.
  • One well-known Respect for Persons Approach
  • The Golden Rule universalizability
  • Treat others a you would like them to treat you
  • Hurt not others with that which pains you,
  • What is hateful to yourself do not do to your
    fellow man, (Judaism)
  • No man is a true believe unless he desires for
    his brother that which he desires for himself,
  • Two others not discussed
  • The self-defeating criterion
  • Rights

Impediments to Responsibility
  • Self-interest.
  • Fear.
  • Self-deception.
  • Ignorance.
  • Egocentric tendencies.
  • Microscopic vision.
  • Uncritical acceptance of authority.
  • Groupthink.

Questionable Engineering Practices
  • Trimming smoothing of irregularities to make
    data look extremely accurate and precise
  • Cooking retaining only those results that fit
    the theory and discarding others.
  • Forging inventing some or all of the research
  • Plagiarism misappropriating intellectual
  • Conflicts of interest (such as accepting gifts.)
  • actual
  • potential
  • apparent

Clearly Wrong Engineering Practices
  • Lying
  • Deliberate deception
  • Withholding information
  • Failing to adequately promote the dissemination
    of information
  • Failure to seek out the truth
  • Revealing confidential or proprietary information
  • Allowing ones judgment to be corrupted.

Code of Ethics of EngineersFundamental Canons
  • Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of
    the public in the performance of their
    professional duties,
  • Perform services only in areas of their
  • Issue public statements only in an objective and
    truthful manner,
  • Act in professional matters for each employer or
    client as faithful agents or trustees,
  • Avoid deceptive acts in the solicitation of
    professional employment.
  • National Society of Professional Engineers

Code of Ethics of EngineersProfessional
  • Engineers shall be guided in all their
    professional relations by the highest standards
    of integrity,
  • Engineers shall at all times strive to serve the
    public interest,
  • Engineers shall avoid all conduct or practice
    which is likely to discredit the profession or
    deceive the public,
  • Engineers shall not disclose confidential
    information concerning the business affairs or
    technical processes of any present or former
    client or employer without his/her consent,
  • Engineers shall not be influenced in their
    professional duties by conflicting interests,
  • Engineers shall uphold the principle of
    appropriate and adequate compensation for those
    engaged in engineering work,
  • Engineers shall not attempt to obtain employment
    or advancement or professional engagements by
    untruthfully criticizing other engineers, or by
    other improper or questionable methods.

Code of Ethics of EngineersProfessional
  • Engineers shall not attempt to injure,
    maliciously or falsely, directly or indirectly,
    the professional reputation, prospects, practice
    or employment of other engineers, nor
    untruthfully criticize other engineers work.
  • Engineers shall accept responsibility for their
    professional activities provided, however, that
    Engineers may seek indemnification for
    professional services arising out of their
    practice for other than gross negligence, where
    the Engineers interests cannot otherwise be
  • Engineers shall give credit for engineering work
    to those to whom credit is due, and will
    recognize the proprietary interests of others.
  • Engineers shall cooperate in extending the
    effectiveness of the profession by interchanging
    information and experience with other engineers
    and students, and will endeavor to provide the
    opportunity for the professional development and
    advancement of engineers under their supervision.

Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway Collapse
The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway
The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway
The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway
The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway
Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
Case Background
  • Morton Thiokol developer of Space Shuttle solid
    rocket boosters (SRBs)
  • Roger M. Boisjoly senior engineer for SRB and SRB
    joint design.
  • Inspection of previous flights (STS-51C)
    indicated hot gas blow-by in primary seals in two
    field joints.
  • Seal leaks could weaken joint and cause
    catastrophic failure of SRB and loss of Shuttle
    and its crew.
  • Seal leaks attributed to cold weather effect on
    O-ring resiliency. O-rings lost resiliency below
    about 50 F.

Case Background
  • If O-rings were cold, they would not flex.
  • During hot gas blow-by, seals (O-rings) would
    erode (be eaten away).
  • Earlier launch (STS-51B) also indicated some
    blow-by and seal erosion.
  • Earlier seal failures prompted Thiokol to conduct
    seal tests on resiliency
  • First indication of failure mode.
  • Test results kept secret from NASA until Flight
    Readiness Review immediately preceding decision
    to launch STS-51L (Challenger).

Solid Rocket Booster Design
Solid Rocket Booster Design
SRB Joint Design
Events Leading to Flight Readiness Review
  • Following seal test results, a memo was
    circulated to technical and management personnel
    at Thiokol outlining problem.
  • Memo indicated potential for catastrophic failure
    of SRB joints, loss of shuttle vehicle, and loss
    of crew.
  • NASA asked Thiokol to present a summary of all
    booster seal problems. (NASA later denies this).
  • A task team was formed to solve the problem.

Events Leading to Flight Readiness Review
  • Task team denied adequate resources by Thiokol
    management manpower and materiel.
  • NASA and Thiokol significantly pressured to keep
    launch schedule.
  • Thiokol or NASA management never acknowledged
    Boisjolys status reports.

Flight Readiness Review
  • Telcon between Thiokol, Marshall Space Flight
    Center, and Kennedy Space Center to discuss
    whether to launch STS-51L next day.
  • Temperature predicted at launch 18F.
  • Seal erosion problems and concerns discussed.
  • Task force problems presented to NASA Thiokol
    management NOT happy with Boisjoly.

Flight Readiness Review
  • NASA asked Thiokol middle management for launch
    decision. Thiokol does not recommend launch.
  • NASA clearly disappointed.
  • Thiokol requests private caucus.
  • During caucus, Thiokol General Manager pushes for
    middle management to launch he apparently does
    not want to disappoint his client, NASA.

Flight Readiness Review
  • Engineers NOT encouraged to talk during Thiokol
    management caucus.
  • Thiokol management felt that all facts were on
  • Thiokol recommends launch to NASA.
  • According to Boisjoly, the launch decision
    resulted from intense customer intimidation.

The Explosion
Hot Gas Leak from SRB(prior to explosion)
Post Disaster
  • Seven astronauts, including one teacher, lost
    their lives in the explosion.
  • Cost of disaster is in the billions
  • 1.7 billion to replace Challenger with Endeavor
  • 450 million launch costs
  • Payload hardware and development costs
  • Congressional hearings
  • Process changes and oversight

Post Disaster
  • Space shuttle program put on hold for several
    years of investigation and hardware redesign.
  • During Rogers Commission proceedings, Thiokol
    and NASA management begin to cover up missteps.
  • Cover up exposed.

Post Disaster
  • Boisjoly leaves Thiokol following efforts of
    management to punish him. Some fellow
    employees hold grudge against Boisjolys
    testimony to Congress.
  • Thiokol or NASA never really held accountable for
  • 10 million fine to Thiokol reportedly not paid.
  • Chance of another catastrophic Shuttle disaster
    is 1 in 131 flights even after redesign!

The Crew of Flight STS-51L
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