Mountain Directed Energy Wayfinder (D.E.W.); National Policy Regarding Semiconductors

Grow, Jeffrey, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Earle, Joshua, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Barnes, Adam, EN-Elec & Comp Engr Dept, University of Virginia

Stargazing is an educational activity that allows us to learn more about the stars, planets, and the universe. It is an activity that has its roots in ancient civilizations like Mesopotamia, Greece, Egypt, and China. They used the stars to track the passage of time, to better plan their crop cycles, as well as to navigate on land and sea. Now, we have other technologies that allow us to track time and navigate more precisely, but that does not make stargazing purposeless. Modern stargazing serves as an educational activity for people of all ages. It can spark our curiosity to better understand the natural world around us and has inspired generations to study the cosmos. While stargazing has these benefits, it can be difficult for novices to get into the activity. Amateur stargazers can have trouble differentiating stars from one another and the products/systems that can help them are often cost prohibitive. Automatic, motorized telescope systems can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars which is simply too expensive for someone who just wants to try out a new hobby. My technical project aims to provide a cheaper alternative that can provide a similar level of functionality as the existing options. To do this, my project utilizes a laser pointer that is rotated and pitched to point at the celestial object that the user selects. By using a small laser pointer, the device is compact and is good for large groups as all can see exactly where the laser pointer is shining. The user interacts with the star-pointer through the use of a LCD display with buttons that allows the user to calibrate the device and select the star/celestial body from a pre-programmed list. By providing a cheaper solution that can fulfill the same basic requirements as more expensive automatic stargazing systems, we hope to enable more people to get learn about the stars.
My STS paper focuses on the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 (CHIPS act), a bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden to bolster the American semiconductor industry. Semiconductors are the materials used in computer chips and other vital electronic components. Since the 1990s, the American semiconductor industry has steadily shrunken from 37% to now only providing 12% of the total global semiconductor supply. We have also fallen behind other countries like Taiwan and South Korea who can produce smaller and more efficient semiconductor devices. Tensions between China and Taiwan have also prompted the U.S. to take action. Since the world’s most advanced semiconductor devices come from Taiwan, any disruption in supply would be devastating on all parts of the economy. The CHIPS act provides over $50 billion in federal funding for the construction of new semiconductor fabrication facilities as well as research and development of semiconductor devices. I aim to analyze what events lead up to the passage of the CHIPS act and what its effects have been on the American semiconductor industry. To do this, I employ the Actor-Network Theory (ANT) STS framework to look at the relationships between different actors within the semiconductor industry network. These actors include individuals who were influential in the passage of the CHIPS act, semiconductor companies that are affected by the bill’s passage, and the countries who are at the front of semiconductor fabrication. I will use sources detailing the history of the semiconductor industry to provide background information for the rest of the paper.
Although it may seem that my technical project and STS paper do not share much in common, the impacts of the semiconductor industry and the CHIPS act were felt when design my technical project. The microcontroller that acts as the main processor for my technical project, is made from semiconductor material. The variations in price caused by semiconductor shortages can have a huge impact on the viability of this design as a commercial product. The CHIPS act aims to help stabilize the semiconductor supply in the U.S. which would mean that there would be less variability in the quality and price of these chips. Having a stronger domestic semiconductor industry would also mean that overall prices for semiconductors could decrease due to the increased supply, making the automatic star-pointer a less expensive product for entry-level stargazers.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Semiconductor, CHIPS Act, Star pointer

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering

Technical Advisor: Adam Barnes

STS Advisor: Joshua Earle

Technical Team Members: Kieran Lynch, Errick Mah, Anthony Panagides, Daniel Xue

Issued Date: