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Pick any four (4) cases and write a brief (~250 words each) response explaining what actions you would recommend for each case.

GENG 101
Homework 10: Engineering Ethics Case Studies
Pick any four (4) cases and write a brief (~250 words each) response explaining what actions you would
recommend for each case. Your response must include three parts: Parts 1 and 2 both of which guide your
recommended action and Part 3 which is your recommended action. For Part 1, discuss how/why any two
applicable major ethical theories provide guidance. For Part 2, discuss how/why any two sections of the National
Society of Professional Engineer’s Code of Ethics provide guidance. And Part 3 is the recommended action with
clear and specific reason(s) using Part 1 and Part 2. You can find the NSPE Code of Ethics at
It is educational to read all of these case studies and consider the ethical implications. Some implications are very
serious, some are minor, and some are not clear from the information given. If there was a way to give some
points for reading and pondering them, I would do so. If you feel that missing information affects your approach,
assume whatever you wish and state your assumption(s). This will not be fun or easy or fast. Sorry about the
As a young professional engineer, you are asked by a former student (who is now an engineer at a local
company) to help her interpret an engineering report regarding part failure submitted by local consulting
engineer. You are a little confused because you know that your former student understood that topic very well
from your class. After reviewing the report, you conclude it had some serious technical lapses and was written
in such a way as to be essentially useless for the company which paid $17k for the services. You feel you should
take some action but don’t know the best plan of action. Prepare an appropriate plan of action with rational.
The answer below, with all three parts is about ~250 words and adequate.
Part 1 – Relevant perspectives from any two major ethical theories (utilitarianism, libertarianism,
deontologicalism, rights, divine command, golden rule, or virtue ethics).
“Utilitarianism theory suggests the best result for society increases its overall happiness and having an
unqualified engineer approve unsafe designs decreases customer’s happiness.”
“Libertarianism theory suggests everyone, including companies, have the freedom to do whatever they
wish as long as they are not harming others and so even though the unqualified engineer has a right to
sell flawed analysis, the company does not have freedom to sell products which cause injury to others.”
Part 2 – Relevant sections of the National Society of Professional Engineer’s Code of Ethics
Section I.1 says “Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall hold paramount the safety,
health, and welfare of the public.”
Section II.2.a says “Engineers shall undertake assignments only when qualified by education or
experience in the specific technical fields involved.”
Section II.7 says “Engineers shall not attempt to injure, maliciously or falsely, directly or indirectly, the
professional reputations, prospects, practice or employment of other engineers. Engineers who believe
others are guilty of unethical or illegal practice shall present such information to the proper authority for
Section II.7.a says “Engineers in private practice shall not review the work of another engineer of the
same client, except with the knowledge of such engineer, unless the connection of such engineer with the
work has been terminated.”
Part 3 – Action with justification using ethical theories and NSPE Code of Ethics.
“Contact the consulting engineer and ‘gently’ inform him of the possible lapses you found. Suggest that
a corrected report be submitted so the company has the corrected, safe information. If the consulting
engineer does not welcome your guidance and sees it more as interference, provide the same guidance to
your former student. If the consulting engineer refuses to provide a revised report, consider reporting him
to the PE Board.”
“Utilitarianism teaches ‘fix it’ because having innocent customers injured by erroneously design products
does not increase happiness. The NSPE Code of Ethics teaches ‘fix it’ because of Section I.1 regarding
the public’s health. Further, Section II.2 says engineers must have appropriate professional
qualifications. But Section II.7 protects the consulting engineer’s reputation. Section II.7.a doesn’t apply
because the connection had been terminated.”
While performing research with a local company, you obtain interesting data. The company would like
you to present your results at a conference showing that their product (urethane) is closest to matching
human muscle response. However, you are unsure if human muscle or calcaneal heal pad is the ideal
response and are concerned about the huge difference in unloading behavior between human muscle and
urethane. You request additional funding to resolve these concerns. Prepare an appropriate plan of action
with rational.
You are part of an engineering team designing a new product test system for a local client. As part of the
specifications, many things (forces, frequencies, displacements, etc.) are specified for the test system to
be acceptable. However, like many engineering projects, it is not possible to specify everything prior to
the project because there are always a number of unknowns at the beginning. During the project you find
that the computer controller card does not allow the control software to provide certain features that would
be desirable in the final test system. While, the configuration does allow the test system to meet
specification, an unusual but possible button sequence may lead to user injury. You suspect the planned
user is not savvy enough to invoke the problem. A new computer card would cost $50k and require 200
hours to implement. The project is already two months late and 20% over budget. You need to decide
whether to ignore the issue, talk to the project manager, talk to the customer, or something else. Prepare
an appropriate plan of action with rational.
As a consulting professional engineer, you are working for company ABC to finish their next generation
product that looks as if it will revolutionize the industry. Part way through the project, company ABC’s
main competitor, company LMN, invites you to bid on an unrelated project. You agree and begin work.
A few months into the project, company LMN steers the direction of their project towards what is
happening at company ABC. You are confident that so far you have breached no agreement and that
normal product development has led to the similarity between these two projects. You know, however,
that company ABC is months ahead and that there are a few expensive pitfalls coming up for company
LMN. You also know that to company LMN you are now the most valuable consultant on the planet.
Prepare an appropriate plan of action with rational.
You just finished a three-year development effort with a local company that resulted in some revolutionary
new products and a flurry of patents. To demonstrate the company’s strong support of the local educational
system, they want you to appear on a future PBS episode to be broadcast nationwide. The company will
assist in production and travel costs and would like you to explain how you started working together, the
funding they provided, and how the development evolved. They also want you to explain how good their
product is and how customers of the competitor’s product would benefit if they switched to this new
product. Prepare an appropriate plan of action with rational.
As a faculty member in a local university, you advised a student senior design project for a local company.
The project was very successful and resulted in a technical presentation at a national conference and a
patent application. You received no pay during the project but made some fairly valuable contributions to
the project and spent more time than you had planned. A couple of months later you receive a $400 gift
certificate from the company to a local hotel that has indoor water parks. Prepare an appropriate plan of
action with rational.
You are interviewing for a job and plan to take certain classes in your final semester prior to graduation.
Since this company wants to hire people who have had those classes, you consider adding them to your
resume since you will have completed those classes prior to starting employment at the company. Prepare
an appropriate plan of action with rational.
Your company begins setting up production in Mexico to handle overflow work that your Minnesota
facility just can’t handle when the economy is running so hot. As a manufacturing engineer you work with
management and factory workers to set up and design the new facility. During implementation, the
economy goes bad and management finds that to stay in business all production needs to shift to the
overflow facility in Mexico and the production workers in Minnesota will be laid off in eight weeks. The
management chooses not to inform anybody else, except you, about the plans until things are up and
running in Mexico. Over the years you have gotten to know the production workers quite well and wonder
if you should tell them anyway. Prepare an appropriate plan of action with rational.
A new ‘super mall’ is built near your city that you take your family to a couple of times a year. On the
second floor is a food court with a walkway that overlooks an amusement park on one side and a play area
on the other. As you stand there you feel floor vibrations from one of the rides. So you have your family
jump and the floor vibrates quite a lot. You fear that in the event of a larger crowd moving in unison (a
party?) the walkway might collapse. As a professional engineer, prepare an appropriate plan of action with
As an engineering consultant, your long term client would like you to use the same analysis software they
use and have agreed to pay for it. After obtaining a bid from the software vendor, you forward the bid to
your client expecting them to pay the vendor directly. A few weeks later, your engineering firm receives
a check for the full amount of the bid. Consequently, you go back to the vendor and ask for the best price
you can get before you buy. It ends up the software vendor offers you a price $5k lower than the previous
higher bid for which you have already been paid by your client. The lower price requires you to not inform
your client of the lower price because then they would want a lower price. Prepare an appropriate plan of
action with rational.
As a project engineer, one of your bigger projects is nearing completion with a client acceptance visit
scheduled for three weeks away. You feel fairly confident in the design but have some vibration testing
planned after the client visit prior to shipping. However, your wife goes into labor the night before the
visit. You had laid ground work should this situation arise and invoke ‘plan B’ by calling your backup.
When you return from a few days off of work, your boss’s boss had authorized shipment of your project
just in time to recognize revenue for the quarter. Your planned testing was not done. Prepare an appropriate
plan of action with rational.
Newly hired as a production engineer, you find a potential problem on the shop floor: workers are
routinely ignoring some of the government-mandated safety regulations governing the presses and
stamping machines. The workers override safety features such as guards designed to make it impossible
to insert a hand or arm into a machine. Or they rig up “convenience” controls so they can operate a
machine while close to it, instead of using approved safe switches, etc., which requires more movement
or operational steps. Their reason (or excuse) is that if the safety features were strictly followed then
production would be very difficult, tiring and inefficient. They feel that their shortcuts still provide
adequately safe operation with improved efficiency and worker satisfaction. Prepare an appropriate plan
of action with rational. (Oakes, Leon, Gunn)
For some time, your company has supplied prefabricated wall sections, which you designed, to
construction companies. Suddenly one day a new idea occurs to you about how these might be
fabricated more cheaply using composites of recycled waste materials. Pilot runs for the new fabrication
technique are very successful, so it is decided to entirely switch over to the new technique on all future
production runs for the prefabricated sections. But there are managerial debates about how, or even
whether, to inform the customers about the fabrication changes. The supply contracts were written with
specifications in functional terms, so that load-bearing capacities and longevity, etc., of the wall sections
were specified, but no specific materials or fabrication techniques were identified in the contracts. Thus
it would be possible to make the changeover without any violation of the ongoing contracts with
customers. Since there is a significant cost saving in the new fabrication method, you wonder if you
have an ethical obligation to inform your customers of the change, and perhaps even renegotiate supply
at a reduced cost to them. Prepare an appropriate plan of action with rational. (Oakes, Leon, Gunn)
While working at an engineering consulting company, you initially bid on and are awarded a project to
develop a patent for a client. Being not too familiar with one of the fields in which the patent topic deals
you feel that you bring some value to the other field associated with the design process. Your client
understands and agrees that if necessary, a consultant from the other field can also be hired in support of
the project. As the project develops, and costs approach $10k, you begin to feel that the technology just
doesn’t exist to bring the idea to market. Further, a patent literature search, completed for $1.5k by a
collaborating patent attorney, suggests that the literature is already fairly saturated with patented ideas and
further patents of value, while possible, are not likely. None-the-less, your client is really excited about
his idea and has made it clear that he is willing to put another $7k for you and up to $10k for the expert in
the associated field to continue working toward a patent. For this type of patent, the patent application
process alone costs $5k. Prepare an appropriate plan of action with rational.
Ten years ago you developed a prosthetic pump as a consulting engineer which has become a fairly
successful product. Patents were filed but, for various reasons, your name doesn’t appear on any of them.
Recently, you received a request to be an expert witness defending the pump you designed from patent
infringement. The pay would be high and you possess expertise of great value to the case but are not sure
if this is a conflict of interest. Prepare an appropriate plan of action with rational.
You previously worked as an engineer for a number of years at a local company making testing equipment
and resign to become a professor at nearby university. During the past few years as a professor you have
ordered hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment from your former employer for your lab because
they provided the best products and prices after receiving competitive bids. In the next year you are able
to take sabbatical (one year break) from teaching and would love to work full time as an engineer at your
former employer. However, you begin to wonder if the current $145k equipment procurement may
influence that sabbatical opportunity in a good way if you buy from them and a bad way if you don’t.
Prepare an appropriate plan of action with rational.
As a consultant, you have signed a $45k contract with a new client to optimize the coolant flow path in a
new racing engine. After signing the contract, you purchase $23k worth of software needed to complete
the contract and your client provides you one of their $80k prototype engines. After partial payment
invoicing for $13k worth of your time, your client refuses to pay. In a phone call, your client lets you
know they have decided to go in a different direction and want to stop all activity on the project. You are
concerned about losing the $23k spent on the software plus the $13k for your labor. Numerous calls to the
client go unanswered. You check online and learn that one of your client’s competitors would gladly pay
you $49k for the prototype engine. Prepare an appropriate plan of action with rational..

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