Smart Pet Feeding Station; The Motivations of Smart Home Technology Adoption

Garrison, Matthew, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The STS and technical projects were both largely inspired by experiences from the UVA
Computer Engineering Program. The technical project, an automatic pet feeding station, was
decided on out of a love for pets, and also because it was a very hands-on application of the
computer engineering disciplines and skills that the team had developed over the previous three
years. Meanwhile, the STS Research topic, of smart home devices, came from the fact that the
“smart pet feeding station” been fully realized, it would have been defined as a smart home
device. When presenting the technical project, ethical questions about the safety, and
interconnectedness of the “smart pet feeding station” were asked often. This further inspired the
STS topic similar questions were already being asked, the technical project team was constantly
finding ways to deal with these problems.
The Technical Project was the Smart Pet Feeding Station, a device that automates the
semi-daily process of feeding and watering pets. The device dispenses controlled amounts of dry
pet food and water into separate food and water bowls during user specified feeding and
watering times. The device also gives pets access to a constant water supply by maintaining a
fixed water level within the water bowl. To accomplish these tasks, the system uses a weight
sensor and two water level sensors to track the amount of food and water within the bowls. This
information is interpreted by a microcontroller, which controls the food and water dispenser
motors. Through the completion of this project, the group was able to experience the process of
designing and constructing an artifact in a real-world engineering design project.
The STS Research Paper was an analysis of smart home devices and their continual
adoption despite public awareness of data collection. In recent years the interest in smart home
devices has exploded. However, despite their popularity, these devices are often conduits for
large data collection schemes. This fact has become relatively well known to the general public,
but people continue to adopt these devices. This research paper intends to investigate why
people continue to adopt these products despite their well-known malintents.
Doing these projects in tandem promoted thinking about each project in from a
perspective that would have been less obvious otherwise. The STS Research Paper influenced
thinking about the Smart Pet Feeding Station in a big picture sense. Questions like what kind of
people would actually buy this, maybe it’s safe for pets, but is it safe for kids, and so on. On the
other hand, the technical project motivated thinking about the research paper in ways such as
how it the topic could influence future designs of smart home devices. Overall working on these
projects together developed a much more complete picture of how engineering skills and
disciplines are applied in the real world

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Issued Date: