Iowa State’s Society of Ethical Engineering creates a space for open discussions about technological developments and aims to bring awareness about current topics, regardless of major.
The club meets weekly and discusses issues such as climate change, artificial intelligence, self-driving automobiles and the link between social media and depression. Wednesday’s meeting also included an election to decide on new officers.
The now-former club president and founding member Thomas Dunn, senior aerospace engineering major, said the idea for the club originated with the help of club sponsor Peter Sherman, an assistant professor in the departments of aerospace engineering and statistics.
The idea originated in spring 2019 and was officially created in spring 2020.
“From then on, we’ve started growing the club,” Dunn said. “Coronavirus has made it difficult, but we’ve still managed to grow from the starting, like six members, to 28 now.”
Dunn said the idea for the club came about after a class discussion about the Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane crashes.
“We were talking about its applications in the material we're learning at the time and the professor asked if anyone was willing to get an organization to start talking about these things so it wasn't just reserved for a classroom,” Dunn said. “These are things that students need to be knowledgeable about going into the field beforehand rather than retroactively.”
Trenten Goode, now-former secretary of the club and senior mechanical engineering major, was also a founding member of the club.
“I wasn't part of that conversation but the same professor, he later said that they were starting a club, and if you're interested in ethics come on and enjoy,” Goode said.
Goode said the club has had to find ways to adapt due to COVID-19.
“People were, at the beginning, like not really wanting to come in due to obviously COVID,” Goode said. “So we tried to battle that by having a live feed of our conversations like on Microsoft Teams. But sometimes, some people can't log on.”
Other than people not being able to come in, Goode said the pandemic hasn’t changed much when it comes to club operations and that good ideas still keep flowing.
“I mean, other than just people not being able to come in, it's been pretty much the same kind of really good conversations even through Microsoft Teams,” he said.
Dunn led Wednesday evening’s open discussion time where the group discussed the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Questions such as the pros and cons of the handling of the pandemic, whether vaccinations should be recommended and online learning were posed and discussed.
In the election, Madison Rediske, sophomore event management major, was selected to be one of the co-presidents.
Rediske said under her leadership, she wants the club to expand to include students from a variety of different majors.
“The club's named the Society of Ethical Engineers, but I'm now in event management and we're bringing in an advertising major to help with our social media page and outreach,” Rediske said.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rediske was a construction engineering major. She joined the club in the fall semester.
“We really want to reach out to other majors — not necessarily just in engineering — because ethics is important in every single workplace, not necessarily just in the field that they're creating and building all this stuff that might be used for everybody else,” she said.
Rediske said she joined the club because of the opportunity it gives everyone, regardless of major, to take part in important discussions.
“Talking about ethics in the workplace, not necessarily just in engineering, but like, in all fields, it's important to realize how what we do can affect others,” she said. “That was just something that I've been passionate about for a long time, knowing that there was a club that talked about it.”
Rediske said people should join the group to hear and have the opportunity to participate in a good, judgement-free discussion.
“Even if you don't have, like, stuff to add to the conversation, it's really nice to just be able to sit here and listen,” she said. “A lot of the times I don't really say too much because it's just a lot of fun to listen and hear what these guys who are older than me, have way more experience and intelligence than I could, but it's just nice to be able to sit and listen to other people's opinions if you have something to add. There's no judgement at all.”
Goode said the club is open to everyone from all majors.
“Anyone and everyone, brothers, sisters, parents,” he said.
During the next meeting on Feb. 24, the club will watch the movie “Wall-E” and discuss the contents of the film the following week.
Meetings are held at 5 p.m. Wednesdays in the Student Innovation Center, room 2206.
The club can be followed on Twitter @engethics and Instagram @see.isu. The club can also be found on Discord.
Those interested in joining the Society of Ethical Engineering can contact Goode at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the mailing list.