Designing for a better future requires a combination of critical skills and knowledge from a breadth of fields in engineering and beyond. This is what motivated Reshaping Engineering 2023 winners – Anya, Robert, Azahara, and Himanshu – to participate in the month-long virtual design challenge run by Engineers Without Borders UK and AzuKo.

Looking to engage with new perspectives and ideas about the positive impact engineering can have on society, the team decided to work with people outside of their universities, joining forces from the University of Bristol, Cambridge, and Sheffield in the UK and Indrashil University in India.

Together, the team developed an “Ethical Engineer’s Toolbox” to educate STEM students across all levels of education about ethical engineering, and empower them to advocate for these issues. We caught up with the team to learn more about their solution and the design process they undertook.

The team chose to focus on how engineering ethics is taught at universities after noticing a disparity between how important people thought ethics was and how confident they felt in the topic. Through a public survey, they discovered that almost half of the respondents felt they were not being sufficiently educated in this topic and so set out to address this issue head on.

Taking a structured approach to the challenge, the team adopted the design thinking process. Within this, they used a multiple criteria decision-making process analysis to rank their ideas systematically and confirm what they thought were the most effective solutions. They came up with two key solutions: an ethics development map and an ethics badge scheme, which they combined into a toolkit that would be easy to implement and could tackle the problem on multiple fronts.

“We decided early on that no one simple solution was going to be able to fix it overnight. Because it’s such a varied issue and it seemed that everyone was experiencing it, even if they were studying different courses, we realised it’s clearly a systematic problem, so we wanted a solution that would be able to tackle it on multiple fronts.”

– Robert Gregson, Engineering Design student at the University of Bristol

Pulling everything together within a month was no easy feat. Anya Burakowski, who is currently studying Engineering at the University of Cambridge, shared: “At the start it was quite overwhelming to decide how to go through the decision making process and make sure that everyone in the team was involved and got a say.”

Robert also explained that “one of the most interesting problems with engineering is that it’s so varied”, which made it difficult to develop a solution that would be relevant across multiple engineering disciplines. Recognising this challenge, the team chose to look at the “fundamental skills which are necessary regardless of your background or what you end up working on.”

When reflecting on their overall experience of Reshaping Engineering, the team were quick to express how pleased they were with the level of enthusiasm everyone brought to the table. One of the most surprising aspects for the group was discovering how invested people were in improving ethics education. Although they’d previously assumed others were aware of the importance of ethics, they did not expect to find so much interest in the topic. 

Anya also added that she really enjoyed learning about the decision-making process involved in design, as this was not something she’d covered in depth in her studies.

Looking ahead, the team believe that their toolkit could be transferable across different fields and levels of education, including apprenticeships and other forms of education. Already in conversation with those working in their university departments, alongside another Reshaping Engineering team that developed a similar solution, they are hopeful that their design can be taken forward to help shape how engineering ethics is being taught.

Robert added that: On a personal level, it’s definitely something I’m going to be thinking about a lot more, in future studies and work.” 

Explore all of the final solutions from Reshaping Engineering 2023 on CrowdSolve