Following the IEEE Code of Ethics
The IEEE has set up a 10 point code of ethics which it stipulates all of its members should abide by. These ethical guidelines, although fairly general, provide a good backbone for ethical practice in the electrical engineering industry. We have chosen to highlight 5 of the 10 ethical guidelines and demonstrate how they influenced our project.
1. to accept responsibility in making engineering decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment;
One of our earliest design decisions was to utilize a visible red semiconductor laser diode. Such a laser could potential be dangerous if shined in the eye of an individual, and so by making this decision we had to take the responsibility to warn any one in the area who could possibly be at risk whenever we had the laser on. We made note in our documentation that the laser is harmful if shined in the eye and to be especially careful of reflections of the laser beam as that is how many laser accidents occur. Any mass produced product containing a laser should (and would) have a warning indicating the dangers.
3. to be honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data;
Because we are providing a serial data link we must also provide a maximum baud at which that data link can operate. If we were to claim that our communication system was able to operate at a maximum baud that it could not, or claim that the reliability of the communication system at a particular high baud is better than its actual reliability then we would be in violation of this point of the code. We have a responsibility not to misrepresent the capabilities of our system and to not make claims contrary to what our data has indicated.
6. to maintain and improve our technical competence and to undertake technological tasks for others only if qualified by training or experience, or after full disclosure of pertinent limitations;
Obviously before we experimented with our laser diode, or before we began programming our Mega32 chip we had to be sure to be current on all available documentation for these components, even (and especially) if it was not covered in class. This is a good practice for anyone in the industry. If you do not feel you know everything you must know in order to accomplish something then you have no business attempting to accomplish it. This translates from reading specifications or data sheets in our project to being current on operatorís manuals or building or design codes in the industry. The professional engineer has an obligation to keep up to date on the current state of his industry, including learning new technologies and methods. To stop learning once you have attained a degree is a recipe for failure.
7. to seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others;
This point of the ethical code benefits us as much as others. Perhaps the most important thing we had to do in our project was to seek honest criticism of our project (in the form of help from Prof. Land and the TAs). This does not mean to sit in the lab with a confused face hoping someone will notice, or to say everything is working properly when there are problems. One must actively seek out help and criticism. We could not have completed the project without such help and criticism.
Yet seeking out help and criticism is not enough. One must accept the help and criticism and put it to good use. To ask for help or criticism and then immediately dismiss it (this happens most often with criticism) would be a clear violation of this point.
Of course the door swings both ways. Offering honest criticism when asked for it is just as important as seeking and accepting criticism when it is given. We did our best to point out errors or fixes to problems that we had already experienced if we noticed some other group experiencing them as well. This does well to nurture mutually beneficial relationships.
8. to treat fairly all persons regardless of such factors as race, religion, gender, disability, age, or national origin;
This is a good ethical guideline no matter what industry one is in. At Cornell one is surrounded by differences in every factor listed and so it is important to treat all members of these different factors fairly and as equals. ECE 476 alone is a melting pot of different races, religions, nationalities, and genders with respect to both classmates and TAs, and so it was important to abide by this guideline in every aspect of the work we did.