HC241H - Making Mistakes and Creating Catastrophes

Professor: Robert Mauro

4.00 credits

CRN 12255: Monday & Wednesday, 2:00-3:20pm @ PETR 102

Overview In this course, we will apply physiology, psychology, and system design principles to analyzing accidents and making sense of mishaps to learn how to prevent problems and improve decisions.  We will discuss some major events (e.g., Boeing 737 Max accidents, Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, Three Mile Island near-meltdown, Bhopal chemical disaster) and some minor mishaps (computer errors, doors that “won’t” open). We will take a field trip to the Eugene airport and air traffic control center and have a discussion with a member of an accident investigation board.

Goals: Real world problems rarely have simple causes. Students will learn to conduct multilevel analyses, repeatedly asking “why?” to arrive at an understanding of how human factors, technology, and the operational environment interact to produce sometimes unexpected (but often predictable) events. They will also gain experience work in groups and writing, editing, and rewriting about complex events and making clear, coherent, and comprehensive oral presentations.

Requirements: Students will read accident reports, watch relevant films, and research the issues that underlie these events. Students will learn simple methods for structuring and conducting multilevel analyses. Then, they will work in teams (with the assistance of the instructor) to analyze selected mishaps, and present their findings in writing. The teams will also be expected to deliver a structured oral report of the investigation including proposed preventative steps to the class. Students not on the presenting team will be expected to read the report before the presentation and engage in spirited discussions with the teams of the results or the analyses and proposed preventative steps.