The federal government is sending funds to Florida Polytechnic University for research to “support and strengthen the ethical identity of engineering students and future STEM professionals.”
This week, Florida Polytechnic announced it is getting $600,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
“The one-of-a-kind research will analyze the motives and barriers to ethical behavior in an academic setting, and the resulting ethical attitudes and actions exhibited by students. It also examines the extent to which these ethical attitudes continue once students enter the engineering workforce,” the university noted.
“As we try at Florida Poly to differentiate our product, and our product is the students, we want them to be the absolute best in terms of their technical training,” said Dr. Grisselle Centeno, a professor and the principal investigator of the research at the university. “However, it would all be worthless if they engage and practice in an unethical manner.”
The funds, the largest NSF grant sent to the university in its short history, “will fund a four-year program focused on students throughout their mandatory internships.”
“About 60 engineering students will participate each year in multiple aspects of the research, including ethical trainings, case studies, surveys, and open discussions on different ethical scenarios. The data will be used to measure the impact these factors have on the students’ ethical actions and reactions. The goal is to develop a methodology that institutions across the nation can adopt to promote the establishment of ethical competence as a core skill associated with the engineer identity,” the university noted.
“Engineering is not an easy career. There is a lot of pressure and that’s unfortunately when unethical behaviors may happen,” said Centeno who teaches in the Data Science and Business Analytics Department. “We want to train our students so they have the sensitivity to recognize what’s ethical and what’s non-ethical, and equip them to act ethically.”
The research is a collaborative effort between Florida Poly as the lead institution and the University of South Florida (USF). Dr. Kingsley Reeves and Dr. Michelle Hughes Miller from USF are working on the project. So are Dr. Elaine E. Englehardt from Utah Valley University, and Dr. Michael S. Pritchard from Western Michigan University.
“Academic institutions must teach our students the critical importance of behaving ethically both inside the classroom and as engineering practitioners,” Centeno said. “We want to make sure that the backbone of ethics is well instilled in the student’s development so that they can be successful and have an impact as engineers and STEM professionals.”