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Engineering & Society Program

Exploring the human side of engineering is the purpose of the five-year Engineering & Society program, which examines the complex interactions between technology and society.

About the Program

Complex interactions between technology and society. Engineering & Society is offered for students in all departments at McMaster, under the direction of Cameron Churchill, Professor of Civil Engineering.

Through core courses that deal with the culture, history and social control of technology, the program develops broadly educated, resourceful engineers with a multidisciplinary outlook and strengths in communication and effective interaction with others.

Curriculum

The core courses in Engineering and Society provide our students with a deeper understanding of how their future engineering practice will influence and impact their communities.  Within the context of historical analysis, public policy development and evolution of green engineering we investigate how technology affects society and how in turn society influences the development of technology.

The core courses in the Engineering and International Studies stream provide a deeper understanding of a range of aspects that influence the practice of engineering within a global context.

Additionally, both Society and International Studies students take three inquiry courses that develop skills and expertise in question-driven research.  Our students also self-design a set of focus electives from outside Engineering, to obtain skills and knowledge in an area of significant personal interest to each individual student.

 

Core Courses

The core courses explore the way technology shapes society and is in turn shaped by society through courses on:

  • The Culture of Technology
  • Case Studies in the History of Technology
  • Preventive Engineering:  Environmental Perspectives
  • Social Control of Technology

In addition, three courses called Inquiry in an Engineering Context, develop skill at formulating questions, carrying out research and communicating findings. These courses help to examine the complex nature of issues like sustainable development and systems failure.

Work done in these core courses fosters and develops:

  • research skills and resourcefulness
  • oral and written communication skills through group work and seminars
  • initiative
  • strategies to critically define and assess problematic situations
  • the ability to work effectively as a team with engineers from all fields

Brief Description of Core Courses

E&S 2X03 INQUIRY IN AN ENGINEERING CONTEXT I - Year 2

  • approach to study of issues of public concern
  • environment and sustainability
  • how to use community & university resources in research

E&S 2Y03 CASE STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGY - Year 2

  • history & philosophy of technology with emphasis on cultural aspects

 E&S 3Y03 THE CULTURE OF TECHNOLOGY – Year 3

  • nature & structure of technology
  • nature of culture
  • role of groups in culture dominated by technology

E&S 3X03 INQUIRY IN AN ENGINEERING CONTEXT II - Year 4

  • focus on issues concerning role of engineering & technology in society

E&S 3Z03 PREVENTIVE ENGINEERING: ENVIRONMENTAL PERSPECTIVES - Year 4

  • concepts are studied and applied to specific case studies
  • focus is on sustainability and the natural environment

E&S 4X03 INQUIRY IN AN ENGINEERING CONTEXT III - Year 5

  • relations of technology to society
  • implications for practising engineers

 E&S 4Y03 SOCIETY CAPSTONE DESIGN- Year 5

  • holistic design
  • social sustainability
  • community resilience and aesthetic elements

Society Focus Electives and Minors

Every Society student self selects a group of focus electives that is in line with their individual interests. Many students wish to earn a formal minor, which requires a few more courses above the Society focus elective requirements. As a guide to students entering the Society Program, the following is a list of the more popular minors that our students have completed.

For specific course requirements for minors, please view the Academic Calendar.

  • Minor in Geography
  • Minor in Business
  • Minor in Theatre and Film
  • Minor in French
  • Minor in Religious Studies
  • Minor in Psychology
  • Minor in Biochemistry

The Art of Inquiry

This has been excerpted from Teaching the Art of Inquiry, Hudspith, B., Jenkins, H. (2000). A copy of the full report is available in the Society Resource Room.

I. What is Inquiry

Inquiry is a search for understanding through a process of asking questions and seeking answers through research. Inquiry is a question-driven search for understanding.

  • Kinds (or objects) of understanding:
    • understanding a phenomenon (identifying causes, factors, effects)
    • understanding a presumed relationship or claim (testing the validity of a claim
    • understanding a controversy (identifying the main issues)
    • understanding a theory or concept (clarifying and testing)
    • understanding a process (finding out how something works) 

II. What Inquiry is Not

From our experience, many student papers are one or more of the following:

  • presenting descriptive information on a topic
  • supporting a thesis by developing only one side of an issue
  • offering a solution to a problem as in a design project

The aim of inquiry is different. It is an attempt to reach an understanding by asking
critical questions, seeking answers to those questions through research, and by
weighing findings on all sides of an issue.

Art of Inquiry

Level 1 Information

The Engineering and Society program was created to provide students with a broader university education and to give them a greater insight into the way engineering works in society. Graduates of this program learn about the complex issues of socially responsible engineering and can be expected to make this a life-long commitment.

The program spreads out the Engineering curriculum over five years, allowing room for another subject. In the Engineering and Society program, a set of focused electives and a series or required core courses are taken in addition to the basic Engineering curriculum. This allows Engineering students who have a strong interest in another subject (such as music, French, or history) to take classes in that subject as well.

Admissions Requirements

To be accepted to the Engineering and Society program, students must successfully complete Level I Engineering.

For more information on the Engineering and Society program, you can contact Cameron Churchill, the Director of Engineering and Society, by phone at extension 23179, by email at church@mcmaster.ca or in person in JHE-233 or Anna Sciascetti at sciasce@mcmaster.ca or visit her in JHE A214-C or by phone at extension 27679.

NOTE: In cases where demand for any program exceeds its capacity, allocation to the program will be done on a competitive basis.

Contacts

Mailing address:
1280 Main Street West
JHE-A214-C
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
L8S 4L7

Cameron Churchill

Cameron Churchill

Director, Engineering & Society Program

JHE-233
(905) 525-9140 ext. 23179
church@mcmaster.ca

Anna Sciascetti

Anna Sciascetti

Program Coordinator

JHE-A214-C
(905) 525-9140 ext. 27679
sciasce@mcmaster.ca