Make that four years in a row – students from Colorado School of Mines have qualified for the 2019 National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl.
The Mines Ethics Bowl team came in first place at the Rocky Mountain Regionals on Nov. 10 at the University of Northern Colorado, besting teams from UNC, University of Nebraska and Colorado State University. The victory earned the Mines team a bid to nationals, which will be held in March at the Annual Association for Practical and Professional Ethics Conference in Baltimore.
"Every year I'm amazed by Mines students and their ability to think on their feet and to marshal a ton of information into a coherent argument. I don't think there was another engineering student on any of the other teams – they were mostly philosophy majors, with economics and political science thrown in,” said coach Sandy Woodson, teaching professor of humanities, arts, and social sciences. “We show these other schools that science-y students have important things to say about ethics, and our students encounter different ways to think about and articulate problems. It's a win-win, no matter how well we do. But, of course, it's great to win!"
In Ethics Bowl, teams of three to five students compete to best argue and defend moral assessments of the most complex ethical issues facing today’s society. Teams are judged on their ability to demonstrate understanding of the facts, articulate ethical principles, present an effective argument and respond effectively to challenges from the opposing team and judges.
Around Labor Day, the teams received 15 cases, with brief narratives outlining some of the issues raised by each case. At regionals, 10 of those 15 cases were debated, with no team knowing the chosen cases in advance.
Parker Bolstad, a senior in environmental engineering, said the Mines squad’s pragmatic and empirical approach to the cases really resonated with the judges who weren’t looking for answers grounded in higher-order philosophical thinking so much as answers crafted to best address situations given the complex variables of the real world.
“Engineers – ourselves included – are taught to be practical and to base our opinions on the best available information. Rather than dealing with hypotheticals, we ground our opinions in the information available to us,” Bolstad said. “That type of thinking is intuitive and appealing to many of the judges.”
Fellow presenters on this year’s team are Meghan Anderson, a senior majoring in electrical engineering; Thomas Deisz, a junior majoring in electrical engineering and computer science; Ashanafe Geberkidane, a senior in petroleum engineering; and Amara Hazlewood, a senior in chemical engineering.
Team researchers are Beatrice Uy, a senior in mechanical engineering; Jessica DiCaprio, a sophomore in environmental engineering; Amy Blatnick, a sophomore in metallurgical and materials engineering; and Wan Jun Aida Wan Ahmad Johari, a junior in petroleum engineering.
This year’s regional case topics included voting rights for felons, the use of genealogical DNA databases to solve cold cases and the terms of service for tech giants like Facebook. The cases for nationals will be distributed in early January.
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