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Ethics in Engineering: Stories About Epic Engineering Fails

Discover the impacts of engineering failures as you uncover historical cases and the key factors that led to disastrous results.

564 enrolled on this course

A photo of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsing
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Explore unique case studies in engineering ethics

On this four-week course, you’ll examine different historical case studies and understand how they led to classic engineering failures.

Though each case is unique and has a distinct context, they all share common themes; a backstory, a disastrous event, a post-event with ramifications, and outcomes.

For each case, you’ll watch and hear video lectures and explore foundational literature. You’ll also have the opportunity to discuss the case in detail and check your knowledge through quizzes and reflections on your understanding of the case. This format will help you develop a working knowledge of ethical foundations.

Delve into several case studies, including the VW emissions scandal

You’ll examine four case studies; the VW emissions scandal, the failure of the Denver airport baggage system, the fatal case of the Therac 25 radiation machine, and the software failure of the Ariane 5 rocket launch.

With each case, you’ll identify key aspects that led to the engineering failures and discuss the outcomes of the failures.

You’ll also explore the significance of each case and how they led to corrective actions.

Develop your knowledge of engineering alongside experts in the industry

The course will help you reflect on engineering as a design discipline and its impact on humans.

You’ll be guided by Dr David Chesney, an expert in both industry and academics with 20 years of experience at General Motors Corporation and 20 years working at the University of Michigan. Dr. Chesney’s background is in Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Computer Science and he is the Toby Teorey Collegiate Lecturer in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan College of Engineering.

What topics will you cover?

The case studies that will be utilized are:

  1. The VW emissions scandal
  2. The Denver airport baggage system
  3. The Theerac 25 radiation machine
  4. The Ariane 5 rocket launch

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe multiple historical cases of classic engineering failures
  • Identify key aspects that led to these classic engineering failures
  • Discuss the causes and the outcomes of these classic engineering failures
  • Reflect on the significance of these cases of classic engineering failures, with respect to corresponding applications of corrective actions
  • Develop a working knowledge of ethical foundations
  • Reflect on the utility of engineering as a design discipline and on its impact on humans

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in the underlying causes of engineering failures.

It will be particularly useful for engineering students and professionals, although no prior experience is required.

Who will you learn with?

David Chesney is currently faculty in both the Computer Science and Biomedical Engineering Departments at the University of Michigan. Prior to UM, he spent 20 years working in the automotive industry

Who developed the course?

University of Michigan

As the #1 public research university in the United States, U-M has been a leader in research, learning, and teaching for more than 200 years, with 102 Grad programs in the top 10 — U.S. News & World Report (2019).

  • Established

  • Location

    Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  • World ranking

    Top 30Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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