Ethics toolkit: Case studies

Welcome to the case studies pages of EPC’s Engineering Ethics toolkit. Click here for the toolkit homepage.

Case studies are one tool that can be used to address the context and impact of engineering ethics, and have been proven to be an effective teaching and learning method.

These case studies cover a variety of engineering disciplines, professional situations, and personal dilemmas and focuses on several areas of moral pedagogy. They were developed for use in higher education, but may also be of use in other settings.

To accommodate many educational levels, the case studies are divided between Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced cases. They are written in parts so that educators have the flexibility to use them as is best suited to their teaching content and environment, and all cases permit and encourage the integration of technical content. Along with learning and teaching notes, the cases contain suggested questions and activities as well as supplementary materials.

They are aligned to the Engineering Council and Royal Academy of Engineering’s Joint Statement of Ethical Principles and the expectations of the 4th Edition of the Engineering Council’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes and are therefore appropriate for UK teaching and learning contexts. They are, however, easily adapted for use in other countries.

Guidance articles are also available to help situate the case studies in an educational context and to signpost to additional research and resources on engineering ethics.

In developing the cases and articles in this resource, the authors and advisory group took into account recent scholarship on best practices in teaching engineering ethics through case studies. They also reviewed existing case study libraries in order to add to the growing body of material available on engineering ethics. 

Case studies

Case study Topic Disciplines Issues Level
Business Growth Models in Engineering Industries within an Economic System  Ethical entrepreneurship in engineering industries Mechanical engineering
Electrical and electronic engineering
Chemical engineering
Justice
Corporate social responsibility
Accountability
Beginner
Intermediate
Advanced
Facial Recognition for Access and Monitoring Development and use of a facial recognition system Data
Electronics
Computer science
AI
Diversity
Bias
Privacy
Transparency
Advanced
Choosing a Career in Climate Change Geoengineering Soil carbon sequestration and Solar geoengineering Chemical engineering
Energy
Environmental engineering
Respect of the environment
Social responsibility Risk.
Beginner
Glass Safety in a Heritage Building Conversion Safety of construction materials Mechanical engineering
Materials
Safety
Communication, Whistleblowing
Power
Beginner
Developing an Internet Constellation   Low earth orbit satellites for internet provision Electronics Mechanical engineering Respect for environment
Public good
Future generations
 Intermediate
Industrial Pollution from an Aging Pipeline and its Impact on Local Communities Monitoring and resolving industrial pollution Chemical engineering
Civil engineering
Manufacturing
Mechanical engineering
Environment
Health
Public good
Advanced
Power to Food Technologies Alternative food production Energy
Chemical engineering
Sustainability
Social responsibility
Advanced
Developing a School Chatbot for Support Student Services Developing customised algorithms for student support Computing
AI
Data.
Bias
Social responsibility
Risk
Privacy
Beginner
Water Wars: Managing Competing Water Rights Data centres’ impact on sustainable water resources Civil engineering
Electronic engineering
Sustainability
Respect for environment
Future generations
Risk
Societal impact
Intermediate
Smart Homes for Older People with Disabilities Data security of smart technologies Electronics
Data
Mechatronics
Autonomy
Dignity
Privacy
Confidentiality
Intermediate
Choosing to Install a Smart Meter Smart meters for responsible everyday energy use Electrical engineering Integrity
Transparency
Social responsibility
Respect for the environment
Respect for the law
Beginner
Solar Panels in a Desert Oil Field Trade-offs in the energy transition Chemical engineering
Electrical engineering
Energy
Sustainability
Honesty
Respect for the environment
Public good
Intermediate

All case studies are also available as pdf documents on the RAEng website.

To ensure that everyone can use and adapt these cases in a way that best fits their teaching or purpose, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License. Under this licence, you are free to share and adapt this material, under terms that you must give appropriate credit and attribution to the original material and indicate if any changes are made.


These case studies were created as part of the EPC Ethics toolkit that is intended to evolve and grow over time. Further case studies are being developed and will be added in due course, along with additional teaching resources to support individual case studies (scheduled for Winter 2022). We are actively inviting you to submit your own case studies for review and possible inclusion in this toolkit. In due course, a template will be provided and submission guidelines, but in the meantime, please contact us to find out about submitting a case study or supporting the ethics toolkit in other ways.

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