Ethics and Engineering
Spring 2019

ECE 110

Course Notes

Learn It!

A society grants to individuals trained in engineering certain privileges, among them the opportunity to apply their training to pursue satisfying and respected work. In return, engineers have professional responsibilities to various stakeholders within society, as described below by Prof. Michael C. Loui:

Engineering professional responsibility encompasses the ethical obligations of engineers in their professional relationships with clients, employers, other engineers, and the public; these obligations include honesty and competence in technical work, confidentiality of proprietary information, collegiality in mentoring and peer review, and above all, the safety and welfare of the public, because engineers' decisions can significantly affect society and the environment.

You can read more about the ethical obligations of engineers (specifically, computer engineers) in Prof. Loui's article on Ethics and Professional Responsibilities in Computing.

A code of ethics is a statement of principles made by an organization to aid its members in serving their ethical obligations to society. An example most relevant to electrical engineers is the code of ethics of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), reproduced below.

Figure 1

IEEE code of ethics
Fig. 1: IEEE code of ethics. More than 400,000 members of the IEEE pledge to this code of ethics. Image source.

The student code at the University of Illinois fulfills a similar role to a code of ethics. It describes the rights and responsibilities of students across a variety of activities at the University. You are strongly encouraged to read it!

Just like any other skill, the best way to become proficient at ethical behavior is through practice. In lecture, you consider the following case studies.

You can find more case studies at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science.

Explore More!

Ethical questions will appear throughout your professional lives. Likewise, your training in ethics at the University of Illinois spans the curriculum. If you take ECE/PHIL 316: Ethics and Engineering (which is a humanities elective that satisfies the campus advanced composition requirement), you will study engineering ethics from its philosophical underpinnings to its legal implications. And as part of ECE 445: Senior Design, you will address the ethical considerations of your capstone project.

You can also watch a series of mini-lectures on engineering ethics posted by the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education (iFoundry).