Prof. Robert C. Maher

610 Cobleigh Hall (northeast corner of 6th floor, inside ECE Main Office)


Office:  994-2505
Home:  587-5925 (but please do not call me at home)


[email protected]

Class Page:


Office hours:

Tuesday and Thursday 11AM - noon
Drop-in questions at other times are always OK if I'm not busy with some other appointment.

 Textbooks and Materials

  1. Society, Ethics, and Technology, 4th ed., Winston and Edelbach, eds., Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009; ISBN: 0-495-50467-X.
  2. Cullen, Katherine, Science, Technology, and Society: The People Behind the Science, Chelsea House Publishers, 2005; ISBN: 0-816-05468-1.
  3. One bound 9.75" x 7.5" composition book (college ruled)
  4. Handouts and notes (in class).

Class Objective

  • Raise student awareness of what engineering is and what engineers do in the context of science and society.

  • Increase student understanding of the methods engineers use to create knowledge and to innovate--and how those methods may differ from the traditional methods of scientists.

  • Help students appreciate the connections between science and engineering and the problems of everyday life.

  • Raise student awareness of the nature of engineering creativity and design.

  • Help students understand the role of ethics in engineering decisions.

  • Identify and investigate the connections between engineering and cultural values.

  • Encourage critical thinking about engineering solutions, taking into account cultural values and other constraints.

Course Outcomes

At the conclusion of ENGR 125CS, students will be able to:

  • Identify the features of engineering creativity and design, and explain the similarities and differences between engineering and science.

  • Discuss, in written and oral form, a complex technological issue in contemporary society and critically consider the constraints and alternatives involved.

  • Explain the ways in which scientists and engineers work together to solve problems.

  • Communicate an understanding of the societal and cultural context of engineering and engineered systems.

  • Work with a group of students to trace the historical development of a specific technology or technological problem, synthesize a variety of points of view, and explain the current and future implications of this technology.

Class Outline

(details are subject to change:  SEE COURSE NOTES PAGE for current info!)

Typical (but not always...) weekly plan: 
Monday is activity day.
Wednesday is lecture day.
Friday is quiz and reading discussion day.

Week 1 (8/30, 9/1, 9/3)

What is engineering?

Course introduction and overview.

How is engineering portrayed in popular media? Why?

What is the difference between science and engineering? Is this distinction important to society?

Week 2 (Labor Day, 9/8, 9/10)

What is engineering? (cont.)

The key role of incremental improvement in engineering.  Examples from transportation, communication, energy system, public works.

Week 3 (9/13, 9/15, 9/17)

What is engineering? (cont.)

Working within constraints: finding the optimum solution to a need while balancing cost, safety, efficiency, availability, etc.

Week 4 (9/20, 9/22, 9/24)

What is engineering? (cont.)

Quality, cost, and value:  the economic basis of engineered systems.

Guest lecture: TBD

Week 5 (9/27, 9/29, 10/1)

Why do engineers do what they do?

What motivates engineering innovation? Seeking fame and fortune? To gain the esteem of humanity? Simple curiosity?

Week 6 (10/4, 10/6, 10/8)

Why do engineers do what they do? (cont.)

Engineering as a profession and as an academic discipline:  history since the 19th century.

Mid term paper to be assigned around 10/6.

Week 7 (10/11, 10/13, 10/15)

Why do engineers do what they do? (cont.)

Mid term paper draft due in class about 10/15.

Engineering as a social force and an economic engine.  Defining progress in social terms.

Guest lecture: TBD

Week 8 (10/18, 10/20, 10/22)

Mid term paper will be due around 10/20.

How do engineers accomplish their goals?

Applying scientific and mathematical principles.

Week 9 (10/25, 10/27, 10/29)

How do engineers accomplish their goals? (cont.)

The design process as a creative enterprise.  The role of creativity in engineering innovations.

Week 10 (11/1, 11/3, 11/5)

How do engineers accomplish their goals? (cont.)

Understanding the engineering process, its influence on society, and the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Week 11 (11/8, 11/10, 11/12)

How do engineers accomplish their goals? (cont.)

Guest lecture or field trip: TBD

Week 12 (11/15, 11/17, 11/19)

Project Assignment and Discussion

Week 13 (11/22, Thanksgiving)

Project Work

Week 14 (11/29, 12/1, 12/3)

Finish Project Work: Written Report Due.

Week 15 (12/6, 12/8, 12/10)

Project Presentations (in class)

Week 16 (Finals Week)

(NO course final exam:  final written group reports due 12/13)

Course Grading:  

 In-class worksheets, homework essays: 25%

→ Expect frequent in-class worksheets and mini-projects.  There are no "make-up" assignments if you miss an in-class worksheet or mini-project.  Homework--both individual assignments and GROUP work--will also be required periodically.  Homework is due on the due date at the BEGINNING of class.  No late homework will be accepted.

In-class quizzes: 25%

→ Approximately once per week there will be in-class quizzes and essays covering the assigned readings and other topics as announced.

Mid-term assignment: 25%

→ A major mid-term WRITTEN ESSAY is assigned during the semester.

Final Project and  Presentation:      25%

→ Final written and oral GROUP project presentations are due the last week of class.


Grade guarantee: 

course letter grades may be higher (but will not be lower) than indicated by the following scale:

A- = 90%
B- = 80%
C- = 70%
D = 60%
F = 59%

A grade of F will also be given automatically if the midterm essay or final project is not completed successfully, regardless of the student's aggregate score total.


  • If you have a documented disability for which you are or may be requesting accommodations, please know that you are WELCOME and I encourage you to participate fully in this class!!  Contact the instructor and Disabled Student Services (phone 994-2824; TTY 994-6701; ) as soon as possible.

  • Section 310.00 in the MSU Conduct Guidelines states, among other details, that students must be prompt and regular in attending classes, be well prepared for classes, take exams when scheduled, and act in a respectful manner toward other students and the instructor.

  • Be sure to acquire the required textbooks and the college ruled composition book during the first week of class.

  • You are responsible for all material covered in class and in the textbook reading assignments.

  • Late submissions of assignments (homework and reports) will not be accepted. Plan ahead and notify the instructor prior to justifiable absences, or if a bona fide emergency prevented you from attending class.

  • There will probably be several guest lectures and presentations scheduled during the semester.  Although it is not reasonable for me to make out-of-class events mandatory, I do expect the students to take advantage of all learning opportunities provided in the course.

  • All students must have an electronic mail address listed with the MSU Student Email System.  Announcements and reminders for ENGR125CS will be sent occasionally via email, and you must plan to check email every 2-3 days throughout the semester.

  • Academic Misconduct:  Unless group work is explicitly assigned, homework and exams must be prepared individually. Submitting the work of others is dishonest, constitutes academic misconduct, and is grounds for dismissal from the course. Paraphrasing or quoting anothers work without citing the source is also academic misconduct.  Even inadvertent or unintentional misuse or appropriation of another's work (such as relying heavily on source material that is not expressly acknowledged) is plagiarism. If you have any questions about using and citing sources, you are expected to ask for clarification.

  • All records related to this course are confidential and will not be shared with anyone, including parents, without a signed, written release from the MSU Dean of Students.  For more information contact the Dean of Students office at 994-2826.