Design and Construction of a Ferrofluid Kinetic Art Clock; Enhancing Human Welfare and Balancing Surveillance: Examining the Sociotechnical Impacts of High-Altitude Weather Balloons
Bilyeu, Trenton, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Garner, Gavin, EN-Mech & Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Wayland, Kent, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
The development of low-cost, long-endurance aircraft balloons has the potential to provide numerous social benefits, including atmospheric research and lower-cost access to high-altitude missions. However, the increasing use of these balloons for surveillance, intelligence gathering, and persistent surveillance raises concerns about the technology's impact on society. This portfolio will examine the development of these aircraft and their impact on private corporations, governmental agencies, and individual stakeholders.
The technical portion of this portfolio will focus on the development of a dynamic ferrofluid seven-segment clock and the design and construction of a kinetic marble art display. These electromechanical systems utilize motors, sensors, and microcontrollers to control the devices' various functions. The connection between the technical portion and the STS project is readily apparent in the direct application of mechatronics systems enhancing existing mechanical systems.
Clocks have been used to tell time since the sundial, and humans have been developing more advanced and reliable methods to measure and indicate short periods of time. With the development of electric clocks, timekeeping has become trivial. The core idea of this capstone project is to develop a kinetic art display that functions as a digital clock through the manipulation of ferrofluid materials and various marble tracks. The clock will include most of the common functions found on digital clocks today, all while adding a novel way to tell time.
Developing this project presents unique challenges regarding reliability, durability, and usability. The clock will be changing positions every minute of every day for years between service intervals, making it necessary to be reliable for hundreds of thousands to millions of duty cycles. In addition, the device needs to be durable and able to withstand tampering and loss of power, as it will be displayed within the mechanical engineering building. Lastly, the clock must be usable, designed to encourage interactions, inspire future engineers, and allow users to tell the time with a passing glance.
The clock will be controlled by a Parallax propeller 2 microcontroller chip utilizing parallel processing and an internal quartz harmonic oscillator. The controller will control 28 individual servo motors, each associated with a segment of the four 7-segment displays. Four relays will control power to each individual 7-segment display. This ensures that the servo motors are only powered when they need to translate, reducing power consumption and extending the useful life of the servo motors. The controller will also keep time, provide power to subsystems and ball lifts, and initiate the various events at the one minute, ten minute, and hour intervals.
The STS portion of this portfolio will focus on the development of low-cost, long-endurance aircraft balloons and their impact on society. Balloons have been used for flight since the earliest forms of man-made flight, and their development has led to significant advancements in atmospheric research and lower-cost access to high-altitude missions. However, the increasing use of these balloons for surveillance, intelligence gathering, and persistent surveillance raises concerns about the technology's impact on society.
The decreased cost of high-altitude flights will enable more research flights, as well as a growth in the use of balloons for reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and persistent surveillance. This potential technology raises concerns about how society would use it and whether it will contribute more to human flourishing or suffering.
One of the main concerns about the use of low-cost, long-endurance aircraft balloons for surveillance and intelligence gathering is the potential violation of privacy. These balloons have the capability to conduct long-term, persistent surveillance over a wide area, enabling the monitoring of private individuals and organizations. This could potentially lead to the infringement of civil liberties and the abuse of power by government agencies or private corporations. Through the lens of Technological Momentum, this portfolio will analyze the influence of low cost long endurance HABs regarding surveillance involving private corporations, governmental agencies, and individual stakeholders.
This portfolio explores the development of low-cost, long-endurance aircraft balloons and their impact on society, as well as the development of a dynamic ferrofluid seven-segment clock and kinetic marble art display. The technical portion of the paper outlines the challenges of developing a reliable, durable, and usable clock while utilizing mechatronics systems. Meanwhile, the STS portion of the paper focuses on the potential concerns surrounding the use of low-cost balloons for surveillance and intelligence gathering. While the clock project is a successful demonstration of the application of mechatronics systems in enhancing existing mechanical systems, the STS research raises important ethical questions about the potential impact of new technology on society. The paper highlights the potential risks of privacy violations and abuse of power by government agencies or private corporations. Future researchers should continue to explore the potential risks of low-cost, long-endurance aircraft balloons and propose solutions to mitigate the potential negative consequences on society. Additionally, further development of mechatronics systems can improve the reliability and durability of electromechanical devices and encourage future engineers to continue exploring new applications of these systems. Overall, this portfolio provides valuable insights into the potential benefits and risks of emerging technologies and the importance of considering the ethical implications of technological advancements.
BS (Bachelor of Science)
School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Gavin Garner
STS Advisor: Kent Wayland
Technical Team Members: Julian Dixon, Will Pfister