Florida Polytechnic University won its largest ever National Science Foundation grant this year, the school announced Wednesday.
The $600,000 grant will help the school strengthen professional ethics among engineering students and future STEM professionals.
The grant funds research that analyzes the motives and barriers to ethical behavior in academic settings for students and continues that research to evaluate how ethical behavior learned in school translates into professional work after graduation.
“As we try at Florida Poly to differentiate our product, and our product is the students, we want them to be the absolute best in terms of their technical training,” said Grisselle Centeno, principal investigator of the research. “However, it would all be worthless if they engage and practice in an unethical manner.”
The grant will fund a four-year program focused on students throughout mandatory internships. About 60 engineering students will participate each year in multiple aspects of the research, including ethical training, case studies, surveys, and open discussions on different ethical scenarios.
Researchers will use the data to measure the impact those factors have on the students’ ethical actions and reactions. The goal is to develop a methodology that institutions across the nation can adopt to promote the establishment of ethical competence as a core skill associated with the engineer identity.
“Engineering is not an easy career. There is a lot of pressure and that’s unfortunately when unethical behaviors may happen,” Centeno said. “We want to train our students so they have the sensitivity to recognize what’s ethical and what’s non-ethical, and equip them to act ethically.”
Florida Poly is the lead institution on the research but is partnering with the University of South Florida. Experts from Utah Valley University and Western Michigan University are also collaborating on the project.
“We want to make sure that the backbone of ethics is well instilled in the student’s development so that they can be successful and have an impact as engineers and STEM professionals,” Centeno said.