Smart Fish Tank; How Technological Bias Impacts Society

Alkebulan, Nile, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Seabrook, Bryn, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Powell, Harry, EN-Elec/Computer Engr Dept, University of Virginia

Both the STS research and technical work relate to technology influencing and vice versa. The technical project was created to automate the aquarium care process which would allow its owners to be lazier. An automated aquarium pH balancing device is so marketable because people are inherently lazy, so they buy items that allow their day-to-day life to be less stressful. The STS research of how biases are built into devices and how that influences society, which connects to the technical work because the device made inherently has implicit built into it. When creating the technical project is was never tested it with a wide range of user groups or aquarium life, so it could have a bias towards a certain user group without the creator being aware of it. Both the technical report and STST research explore the intersectionality between the influence of technology and society on one another.

Capstone Project
Aquariums can be difficult to take care of for beginners and experts alike. It’s difficult to keep track of the precise condition of the water when some aspects of it are invisible to the eye such as the pH of the aquarium which is vital to the ecosystem of plants and fish in contains. Automating the process of adjusting the pH of the aquarium to an acceptable range for the ecosystem within the tank to ease the difficulty of taking care of an aquarium which will allow people with a larger range of experience to take care of an aquarium that they would otherwise have a difficult time maintaining. This method will lower the difficulty of keeping an aquarium in good health compared to the standard scheduled pH test many aquarium owners implement to manually monitor and adjust the pH balance to the proper range for their fish and plants. In addition, this tool would be very beneficial for consumers as it would help maintain the health of fish while a consumer is unavailable to physically tend to their fish such as taking a trip or having an emergency. As well, the implementation of the application programming interface (API) will allow for consumers to monitor the pH level of their fish tank. The Smart Fish Tank uses a microcontroller, printed circuit board, and pH probe to determine the pH level of the freshwater inside of the fish tank and dispenses pH solution into the freshwater whenever the pH level is too high or low from the pre-established pH level using two different dispensers controlled by the microcontroller. The smart fish tank’s integrated microcontroller will also determine if the corresponding pH value is lower or higher than the pre-established pH embedded in the microcontroller. Throughout the process used by the smart Fish Tank, the microcontroller will also be sending the corresponding pH values to a dynamo database over Wi-Fi such that an API will be able to access this database and display values in a manner useful to a user.

Research Summary
People are naturally bias, so certain aspects of technology are inherently biases due to society unknowingly creating them that way. The subject investigated in this research paper is implicit biases built into technology indirectly by its creator and how that affects the way society interacts with certain devices. This research paper will explore the following research question: how technology shapes human nature and what does that mean for society when there are implicit biases built into technology? Wicked problem framing will be the framework used to explore and support the research question previously stated. Through this research the complicated connection between society’s influence and technology’s influence on one another will be reflected upon to investigate how implicit biases built into devices impact society. This research is significant because it will consider how the root of the issue is complicate due to how technology and society interact with one another. Without understanding the intersectionality of the two factors it is difficult to determine how to combat the problem of implicit biases within technology.

Working on the technical work and STS research simultaneously offered a new perspective on implicit bias. Being cognizant of the possibility of implicit biases changed the way the device created. The technical project and STS research simultaneously being done change the approach of the design of the devices because it demanded the engineers of the smart fish tank consider a multitude of perspectives. Awareness of implicit biases built into machines is an important to the impact it has on society so having the ability to be the creator and consumer of automated products broaden the team perspective on how implicit biases impact technology and society.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Fish Tank, pH balancer, Automation, Sustainability

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
Technical Advisor: Harry Powell
STS Advisor: Bryn Seabrook
Technical Team Members: Roberto Bryan III, Maya Chambers, Emmanuel Ogunjirin

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