Engineering Ethics

CMPE 80E: Engineering Ethics

What is the course about?

This course looks at engineering ethics in particular and the engineering project in general in their historical and philosophical contexts. The course stresses ethical theories and analyses and their application to issues in the practice of engineering, such as safety and liability, professional responsibility to clients and employers, codes of ethics, legal obligations, environmental issues, and social issues. Through the use of case studies, the course emphasizes developing independent ethical sensitivity and a moral imagination.


When and where?

Oakes Acad 105, Mondays and Wednesdays 2:00-3:10 PM, (Unless specified otherwise, Friday's time should be spent on supplemental materials).

Who to contact?

Sri Kurniawan: Instructor
Sina Kahnemouyi: TA, OH: Fridays 2-3:10 PM at Engineering 2, room 309.
Peter Cottrell: TA, OH: Fridays 2-3:10 PM at Engineering 2, room 309. 
Annie Pugliese: Additional Grader, OH: Fridays 2-3:10 PM at Engineering 2, room 309.

Course email:

Course arrangement: The course is set up as follows:

  1. A lecture on various topics related to engineering ethics, either by the instructor or a guest lecturer.
  2. Doing some assignments or group discussions, or watching videos (in lieu of coming to class). Videos will be taken from freely available sites such as youtube or ted), mostly on inspiring "guest lecturers". See an example of a youtube video that will be used in the class to get a feel: What your design says about you.


  • Take home writing exercises: 50%, usually due Fridays at 5 PM. All group members must submit identical PDF files on eCommons by the deadline. If a member does not submit, she/he will receive 25% penalty on the grade of that submission. If the submissions are not identical, we will only grade the first one we open on eCommons and everybody will receive 10% penalty on the grade of that submission. No late submission is accepted and it will receive a zero.
  • Attendance: 20% - this will be in the form of pop quizzes at random times, either on the lecture topics , supplemental readings or the movies you were supposed to watch the previous week. There is no pre-set number of quizzes and I do not accept any reason for missing the class, but I will drop the lowest grade (so essentially you can skip one pop quiz).
  • Final exam: 30%.

Policies and accommodation

  • All students enrolling in this class are advised that Academic Integrity will be strictly enforced. Academic misconduct includes but is not limited to cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, or facilitating academic dishonesty or as further specified in campus regulations.
  • If you qualify for classroom accommodations because of a disability, please submit your Accommodation Authorization from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to me in a timely manner, preferably within the first two weeks of the quarter. Contact DRC at 459-2089 V, 459-4806 TTY.

Required Skills to pass the course

1. Should be able to critically read and analyze written information, including:

  • Critically read descriptions and data for biased information.
  • Analyze the information in a written description to identify the factual issues and conceptual issues, determine the obligations and responsibilities of the participants, assess the relevant ethical values.
  • Based on the ethical analysis, propose possible solutions using an articulated ethical position/theory.

2. Should be able to form an opinion based on a reasoned ethical position. This opinion must be supported with facts and evidence to further the weight of the opinion being expressed.

3. Show development of an awareness of the ethical component of daily engineering decisions.

Core Topics

  1. Ethical Theories and Analysis
  2. Safety, risk, and liability
  3. Professionalism: Responsibility to clients, employers, peers
  4. Codes of Ethics: ACM, IEEE, other organizations
  5. Legal Obligations: Whistle blowing, Intellectual Property, Professional Integrity
  6. Environmental Ethics
  7. Social Impact of Technology
  8. Engineering and Sustainable Development


Fleddermann, CB. Engineering Ethics, 4th edition, 2008. 

Other reading materials.



Instructors and Assistants