Cvent NSE Intern Reflection; Personal Robotics’ Effect on Social Structure

Wright, Preston, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Seabrook, Bryn, Department of Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Graham, Daniel, Department of Computer Science, University of Virginia
Vrugtman, Rosanne, Department of Computer Science, University of Virginia

This Thesis Portfolio contains two projects: a Capstone which recounts an internship experience and discusses how the UVA Computer Science Department can better prepare students for the corporate world; and a research paper which examines the societal impacts the emerging field of personal robotics may have. These two topics, while distinct, center on the future of technology. Focusing on how technology’s relentless evolution impacts the future is the central theme around these two papers. The capstone explores the technologies used by Cvent, a startup-oriented technology company I interned at, and how academia can continue to change and improve its coursework in the field of computer science to ensure graduates stay competitive in the field while the research paper looks at how an innovative technology could influence the people whose lives it touches and how to evaluate the Ethics of those influences. The ultimate guide of the Thesis Portfolio is to derive actionable insights and a greater understanding of what the future may hold.

Cvent, a Tysons Corner-based technology company, needed a network-oriented dashboard to streamline operations. As an intern with the Network and Systems Engineering Team, I built a dashboard with updated technologies in a way that required minimal future maintenance for the team. Faced with design decisions, I chose established solutions over newer, more advanced ones and low-entry packages or services over more comprehensive ones. After extensive research about stakeholder preferences and existing frameworks, I built two networking applications and hosted the dashboard on Amazon Web Services, a cloud infrastructure platform. My dashboard served as a centralized reference, making it possible for the network and systems engineers to receive real- time information on an array of tasks critical to essential daily operations.

With ever-increasing performance optimizations and data-learning models, robots are quickly and continuously improving their functionality. Expanding from their roles as mindlessly monotonous factory floor workers, they are now beginning to display situational awareness and establish themselves in people’s everyday lives. This paper examines this classification of robotic systems, termed social robots by sociologists, as they attempt to coexist and synergistically incorporate with humans. Specifically, this paper looks at two competing systems of autonomous robotics and the impact they may have on social structure, including centralized vs. decentralized networks and how certain systems may lead to marginalization of groups. Through two elaborate case studies, this paper finds that the two individual systems have both favorable and unfavorable characteristics and will show how other fields of study were impacted by similarly structured technological advancements. Using an evidence-driven approach, this paper asserts that a more favorable system may be neither system individually, instead it may be a new type of system entirely which combines aspects of both approaches. This work hopes to bring an STS lens to an emerging field to help citizens and regulators evaluate the implications of these robotic structures more fully.
Completing these projects together provided something that would otherwise not be present finishing the papers individually: perspective. There was a constant evaluation of where technology is currently with the internship, what tools get used and what their hopes are for the future, as well as where it is going by looking at a field in its infancy which has societal shifting capabilities. On two ends of the spectrum, the thought process for developing these papers was in constant flux. Having that grounding to reality from the summer internship helped more thoroughly and more frankly evaluate where technology might be going. Similarly for the capstone, having to imagine where personal robotics would take society helped to make tangible recommendations for the UVA Computer Science Department that would be insulated from minor changes and more prepared for the future. In a way these projects acted synergistically, by completing them together each individual project’s quality improved beyond doing the papers separately.

BS (Bachelor of Science)

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Daniel Graham
Technical Writing Advisor: Rosanne Vrugtman
STS Advisors: Bryn Seabrook

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