Robottoman, Transportation Justice

Struble, Zach, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Beling, Andreas, EN-Elec/Computer Engr Dept, University of Virginia

As technology advances people will examine how and why they move around inside and outside of their homes. For my STS research paper I chose to perform a preliminary evaluation of the Charlottesville public transportation system, specifically through the lens of transportation equity. In my capstone project I developed the Robottoman, an automated ottoman that is a pilot project for future designs of automated furniture.

My preliminary evaluation of the Charlottesville Transportation system was a very eye opening experience. By looking into all the different ways a city can succeed or fail to give equity to its citizens I was able to learn a lot about the transportation system that I have used for the past four years. The structure of bus fares, the overall transportation budget, the schedule of community meetings, and history of gentrification in Charlottesville were all topics I was able to explore. My goal was to create a list of criteria ranging from monetary equity to the addressing of historical discrimination, and then evaluate Charlottesville according to that framework.

My capstone project was to build the Robottoman. The Robottoman is a battery powered, driveable ottoman that can be piloted by a bluetooth app that was developed for Android phones. Our product involved app development, circuit design, embedded coding, and mechanical construction. The goal of the Robottoman was to develop technology that can be used in the future to help elderly and disabled people move their heavy items around and regain some personal autonomy.

Overall, I was ecstatic by the results of my two projects. After countless hours of hard work my team was able to successfully drive the Robottoman. Also after learning about many different aspects of Charlottesville public transportation I can confidently discuss and give an informed opinion on the current state of Charlottesville public transportation and the general equity of the system. I was able to make five key recommendations to improve transportation equity greaty. This past year has been unique and challenging, but these two projects were a great outlet for hard work and creativity that I value tremendously.

I would like to first and foremost thank my parents for giving me the chance to pursue higher education. I would not have been able to attend UVA without their tremendous sacrifices and I am eternally grateful for that. I would also like to thank Sean Ferguson and Harry Powell who advised my STS and Capstone final projects. Finally, I would like to thank my many friends and classmates, specifically Omid Khan, Daniel Hanson, Rob Fusek, Matt McDonnel and Steve Phan. Working with them on these projects has been a wild adventure and a great learning experience.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
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