The Engineer's Role in Public Policy
The 21st-Century Engineer
Engineers in industry are increasingly involved in compliance with laws and regulations. As our society becomes more technologically sophisticated, a growing number of engineers are also becoming involved in the processes for developing new public policies. Consequently, university engineering education should address the intent and significance of public policy as it relates to the practice of engineering. The engineering department at McNeese State University recently created a new course
... tled The Engineer's Role in Public Policy. This was an interdisciplinary course (involving students in the chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering disciplines) that provided an opportunity for an interdisciplinary examination of current and future public policies. This paper primarily focuses on the material covered by the new course and briefly addresses the teaching methods that were used. Much more could be said about the teaching methods, and the authors are considering developing a separate paper on this topic. While the initial offering of the course was very successful, the authors are currently seeking ways to improve upon the course and collaborate with other engineering faculty who have similar interests or relevant experience. The new course identified issues of primary concern to engineers and trends toward international standards making and international forums for debate on environmental and safety issues. Case studies focused on business ethics, the clean air act, the clean water act, super fund legislation, the activities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, electric and magnetic field effects, nuclear power, and deregulation/restructuring in major U.S. industries. The new course allowed students to be involved in participative activities such as role playing as well as lectures. The importance of credible engineering analyses in public policy development was emphasized. Students used the web to critically review the position statements developed by engineering societies and trade associations. Issue management techniques were discussed, including communication with policy makers and the development of one-pagers. The course involved student participation in focus groups and discussed technologies for sampling public opinion.