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  1. We contend a better way to teach ethics to freshman engineering students would be to address engineering ethics not solely in the abstract of philosophy or moral development, but as situated in the everyday decisions of engineers. Since everyday decisions are not typically a part of university courses, our approach in large lecture classes is to simulate engineering decision-making situations using the role-playing mechanic and narrative structure of a fictional choose-your-own-adventure. Drawing on the contemporary learning theory of situated learning [1], [2], such playful learning may enable instructors to create assignments that induce students to break free of the typical student mindset of finding the “right” answer. Mars: An Ethical Expedition! is an interactive, 12 week, narrative game about the colonization of Mars by various engineering specialists. Students take on the role of a head engineer and are presented with situations that require high-stakes decision-making. Various game mechanics induce students to act as they would on-the-fly, within a real engineering project context, using personal reasoning and richly context-dependent justifications, rather than simply right/wrong answers. Each segment of the game is presented in audio and text that ends with a binary decision that determines what will happen next in the story. Historically, this game had been led by an instructor and played weekly, as a whole-class assignment, completed at the beginning of class. The class votes and the majority option is presented next. In addition to the central decision, there are also follow-up questions at the end of each week that provoke deeper analysis of the situation and reflection on the ethical principles involved. This prototype was initially developed within a learning management system, then supported by the TwineTM game engine, and studied in use in our 2021 NSF EETHICS grant. In 2022-23 the game was redesigned and extended using the GodotTM game engine. In addition to streamlining the gameplay loop and reducing the set-up and data management required by instructors, this redesign supported instructors with an option to allow the game to be student-paced and played by individual students or to keep the instructor-led 12 week whole-class playstyle. Our proposed driving research question is "In what ways does individual student play differ from whole class instructor-led play with regard to learning that ethical behavior is situated?" In the next phase of our ongoing investigation, we plan to further evaluate the use of playful assessment to estimate its validity and reliability in comparison to current best practices of engineering ethics assessment. 
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  2. Ethics education has been recognized as increasingly important to engineering over the past two decades, although disagreement exists concerning how ethics can and should be taught in the classroom. With the support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program, a collaboration of investigators from the University of Connecticut, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University of Pittsburgh, and Rowan University are conducting a mixed-methods project investigating how game-based or playful learning with strongly situated components can influence first-year engineering students’ ethical knowledge, awareness, and decision making. We have conducted preliminary analyses of first-year students’ ethical reasoning and knowledge using the Defining Issues Test 2 (DIT-2), Engineering Ethics Reasoning Instrument (EERI), and concept map assessment to characterize where students “are at” when they come to college, the results of which can be found in past ASEE publications. Additionally, we have developed a suite of ethics-driven classroom games that have been implemented and evaluated across three universities, engaging over 400 first-year engineering students. Now in its third year, we are modifying and (re)designing two of the game- based ethics interventions to (1) more accurately align with the ethical dilemmas in the EERI, (2) allow for more flexibility in modality of how the games are distributed to faculty and students, and (3) provide more variety in terms of the contexts of ethical dilemmas as well as types of dilemmas. As part of the continued development of the game-based ethical interventions, we are piloting a new assessment tool specific for playful learning in engineering ethics and aimed at measuring students ethical reasoning and thought process after they have played the game(s). The past year has provided insight into the potential limitations of the existing methods for measuring changes in ethical reasoning in students, as well as compared changes between first year and senior students. The last year has highlighted the situated or contextual nature of much of the ethical decision making that students do and incorporated both qualitative and quantitative methods. Further results from this investigation will provide the engineering education community with a set of impactful and research-based playful learning pedagogy and assessment that will help students confront social and ethical dilemmas in their professional lives. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 25, 2024
  3. This Work-in-Progress paper stems from an NSF-sponsored project in which a series of game- based activities have been developed for the purpose of enhancing instruction in engineering ethics. These activities have been integrated into first year engineering courses on several campuses. One of these activities is called Toxic Workplaces. In gameplay, the students are presented with scenarios that involve ethical dilemmas. Each scenario comes with several possible responses. The game involves the student/player attempting to rank these possible responses in order of popularity. Thus, players do not necessarily need to take a position on what they themselves would do, but rather are attempting to match the results of survey data that was collected previously. In the Fall of 2022, a team of eight undergraduate students completed a project in which they developed new scenarios, greatly expanding the range of options available to an instructor who wishes to incorporate Toxic Workplaces into a course. This paper describes the game itself and its motivation, and discusses the process by which the undergraduate student team generated and refined their new scenarios. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 25, 2024
  4. Process safety has become a critical component of chemical engineering education. However, students may find it difficult to fully understand the ramifications of decisions they make during classroom exercises due to their lack of real world experience. Use of an immersive digital environment where students could role play as chemical engineering employees making process safety decisions could be one method of achieving this goal. Through this experience, students could observe the outcomes of their decisions in a safe, controlled environment without the disastrous real-world consequences that could come from making a mistake. This digital environment could have further features, such as time constraints or interactions with other characters, to make the experience feel more authentic than an in-class discussion or case study. In order to evaluate the efficacy of such a virtual environment, a portion of this work centered around the creation of the Engineering Process Safety Research Instrument (EPSRI). The instrument asks participants to evaluate process safety dilemmas and rank a set of considerations based on how influential they were in their decision-making process. The instrument then classifies each decision based on the stages of Kohlberg’s moral development theory, ranging from pre-conventional (i.e. more self-centered) thinking to post-conventional (i.e. more global) thinking. This instrument will be used to assess how students’ thinking about process safety decisions changes as a result of engaging in the virtual safety decision making environment. This paper will summarize the progress since the project’s start in summer 2017, highlighting the work completed in development and validation of the EPSRI. This process included content validation, think-aloud studies to improve clarity of the instrument, and factor analysis based on a large scale implementation at multiple universities. The paper will also discuss the development of the minimum viable product digital process safety experience, including establishment of learning outcomes and the mechanics that reinforce those outcomes. By presenting these findings, we intend to spread awareness of the EPSRI, which can evaluate the safety decisions of chemical engineering students while having the potential to launch discussions about safety and ethics in other engineering disciplines. We also hope that these results will provide educators with insights into how to translate educational objectives to elements of a digital learning environment through collaboration with digital media companies. 
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  5. Process safety is at the heart of operation of many chemical processing companies. However, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has still documented over 800 investigations of process safety failures since the year 2000. While not all of these incidents were severe, some did lead to employee injuries or death and environmental harm. As a result, chemical engineering companies are increasingly dedicated to process safety through training programs and detailed vigilance as part of their operations practice. AIChE and OSHA also offer courses in process safety to help support the industry. These efforts illustrate the paramount importance that chemical engineering graduates have an appreciation and understanding of process safety as they transition from their degree program into industrial positions. Previous studies have shown that despite difficulties due to course load constraints, process safety has been incorporated into chemical engineering curriculum through either the addition of new courses, incorporation of the content within existing classes, or a combination of the two methods. A review performed in Process Safety Progress suggested that a key step for departments moving forward is to perform an assessment of the process safety culture within their institution in order to determine how faculty and students view process safety. An issue with completing this task is the lack of assessment tools that can be used to determine how students are developing their understanding of process safety decision making. This observation led to the development of the Engineering Process Safety Research Instrument (EPSRI). This instrument is modeled after the Defining Issues Test version 2 (DIT2) and the Engineering Ethical Reasoning Instrument (EERI). Similar to these instruments, the EPSRI provides dilemmas, three decisions, and 12 additional considerations that individuals must rate based on their relative importance to their decision making process. The dilemmas developed in the EPSRI are based on case studies and investigations from process safety failures that have occurred in industry to provide a realistic context for the decision making decisions that engineers may be faced with upon employment. The considerations provided after the scenario are derived to reflect pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional decision making thinking as described by Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory. Pre-conventional decision making thinking focuses particularly on what is right/wrong or good/bad from an individual level, whereas post-conventional thinking seeks to determine what is correct from moral and value perspectives at the society level. This WIP paper describes the content validity study conducted while developing the EPSRI. Dilemmas were examined by context experts including professionals in the process industry, chemical engineering departments, and learning sciences field. Content experts reviewed the dilemmas and determined whether they represented accurate examples of process safety decision making that individuals may face in real-world engineering settings. The experts also reviewed the 12 considerations for each dilemma for their accuracy in capturing pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional thinking. This work represents the first step in the overall instrument validation that will take place over the next academic year. 
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