Design and Control of a Rotary Inverted Pendulum / The Effects of Automation and Robotic Presence on Unemployment and the Economic Health of Workers Both on a Large Scale and Individual Basis

Garza, Jimmy, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Momot, Michael, EN-Mech & Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Francisco, Pedro Augusto, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The robotic revolution has shaped the world we live in in ways that mere decades ago were though impossible. Today mankind has created mechanical systems that have revolutionized manufacturing, warfare, medicine, and so much more. These impressive mechanical systems are a critical part of our growing society, and are only growing to become more present within our society from day to day. The capabilities of these systems, both good and bad, are why I have chosen the capstone topics that I have. My technical research is in the design and control of a rotary inverted pendulum (RIP). I chose this topic mainly due to my interest in control theory, but also at the request of Professor Michael Momot. Prof. Momot wanted a system he could use as a teaching aide in his undergraduate sections of controls. My STS research topic is the the effects of automation and robotic presence on unemployment and the economic health of workers both on a large scale and individual basis. I chose this topic in order to foster a deeper understanding of some of the effects of robotic systems as they are integrated into society. I wanted to determine if the semi-common fear of robots ruining the job economy for their human counterparts was based in reality or simply a ruse. The fundamental design tools and principles used within the design of the rotary inverted pendulum mechanical system are also the same tools that industry altering robotic systems are built off of. In this way, the principles I exercised in the design of the rotary inverted pendulum are of the same vein as those used in these industry staple robotic systems that could potentially harm human employability.
Prof. Momot’s idea for a teaching aide was a variable gain rotary inverted pendulum as it is a classic example of control theory and is widely used to test different controllers and control schemes. To this end, he wanted us to create a rotary inverted pendulum system that could have its system parameters and controller algorithm altered on the fly, such that he could show his future students in real time what effects each parameter have on the output procedure of the system. Prof. Momot believed a real world demonstration of the control concepts present in the RIP would hugely benefit the learning and understanding of his students. To do this, we utilized our prospective system equations of motion to create a usable plant to dictate how we needed to drive the system from moment to moment. In order to modify the system and account for real world error, a PD controller was also created for use within the system that would modify the way that the system was driven such that we could fine tune the specific results of our system and achieve the most desired outputs for our application as an aesthetically pleasing teachine aide.
The capstone project was overall a success. The pendulum system works well enough as intended such that Prof. Momot will be able to use it as is for an aide, but he will also likely be doing more work on it with future graduating engineers such that the system can be made even better. Only a select few system parameters and controller parameters cannot be altered on the fly, with the majority of these being highly non-influential. The system will work well as a teaching aide as is at the moment, but it also has high potential to be modified in the future such that Professor Momot can achieve all of the desired characteristics within the system.
For my STS research topic I decided to see if I could find a relationship between the introduction of these systems into industries and the overall health of the national economy as well as the health of individual workers at different levels of employment within these affected companies. I wanted to undergo this research such that I could be sure that my desired future projects within the robotics industry would be beneficial to all parties, or at least detreimental to none. My methodologies involved looking at various statistics for economic health and personal income across various time periods of United States history. I adjusted the monetary values for inflation rates and then compared these wages and GDP amounts from periods of relatively little robotic presence within the workforce to periods where there were high rates of robotic presence. Most of the anslysis that was done was simple calculated net changes and average rates of change by virtue of these statistics being very conclusive on their own.
In the end, the data suggests that automation and increasing robotics presence within the workforce hugely benefits corporations and their upper echelon of CEOs and executive workers and the overall productivity of the United States as a whole. Wages of these executive workers and board members have skyrocketed as more and more robots have been added to the workforce, and the United States GDP has grown to new heights. On the other hand, workers whose jobs have the potential to be replaced by these systems saw their wages actually decrease. Even the average, middle class worker would only be making less than a dollar more than they would have 4 decades ago, when upper class wages have increased by 150% within the same industry. I cannot conclusively say that this suggests that robots are bad for the economic wellbeing of workers in their industry, as the economy and wages as a whole are incredibly volatile and difficult to fully define their causes and effects. However, I am confident that there will need to be an increase in policy and laws surrounding robotic systems being implemented within the workforce in order to protect workers and their wages. It would appear that robots in the workforce asymmetrically benefit higher earners much more than lower earners whose jobs could be replaced by the machinery, but further research would need to be done to determine if this is an issue inherent to robots in the workforce, or rather if this is a systemic issue caused by corporate America.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Rotary Inverted Pendulum, Robotic Intensity
Issued Date: