University University Feature

Lasallian startup success stories: Ania Design Lab and modernized disaster preparedness

With the Philippines entering the rainy season, emergencies such as floods, soil erosion, and road accidents are highly expected to occur.

While no one can know for sure when a natural disaster is going to strike, it is the responsibility of people to be prepared both mentally and physically for when they have to face the real deal.

Apart from the typical drills and seminars, Ania Design Lab offers a disaster preparedness education system that is both contemporary and innovative.

Rationale behind the project

Founded in December of 2017, Ania Design Lab focuses on developing interventions for learning problems. Their primary goal is to achieve “an educated Philippines, where Filipinos think on their own and use reasoning and empathy for making decisions.”

Patrick Naui (V, BS CS-IST), Ania Design Lab CEO, expounds on how changes in the Philippine educational system influenced the whole idea behind their startup. “Nung nakita namin na may opportunity for growth since maraming changes ang mangyayari for the next couple of years, naisip namin itayo yung Ania Design Lab.” He adds, “Nakita kasi namin yung learning gaps when it comes to disaster preparedness education in the Philippines.”

(When we saw that there was an opportunity for growth due to the changes that will occur for the next couple of years, we thought of building Ania Design Lab. We noticed the learning gaps when it comes to disaster preparedness education in the Philippines.)

Furthermore, Naui points out how Lasallian professors have also encountered problems when teaching disaster preparedness particularly on how students rely on their imagination because they do not really see the actuality of disasters. “For example, umuulan. Yung scenario na yun, ini-imagine lang ng [students] kasi hindi tumatama sa kanila yung ulan. Hindi nila nakikita yung effects ng ulan sa environment nila,” he stresses.

(For example, it is raining. The students are only imagining the scenario because the rain is not hitting them. They do not see the effects of the rain in their environment.)

A modern approach

Ania Design Lab believes in the effectivity of a more practical approach. Hence, the establishment of a disaster preparedness simulator. “Naisip namin na ilagay yung students sa mga disaster situations para makita nila yung effects ng actions nila, and kung paano talaga nagw-work yung isang disaster situation kasi yun yung integral part ng disaster preparedness education,” he explains.

(We thought of exposing the students to disaster situations for them to see the effects of their actions, and how one disaster situation really works because that is the integral part of disaster preparedness education.)

Currently, Naui and his team are already in the system development of their project. He also shares that Ania Design Lab has been building partnership with communities since April of this year to know if the disaster situations they plan to feature in their simulators are parallel to what is transpiring in the Philippine context.

Education through virtual reality

A contemporary means of executing disaster preparedness is made possible with Virtual Reality (VR). Since subjecting students to real disaster situations may lead to ethical issues, Naui and his team considered VR as the safest way when it comes to disaster preparedness education. “By putting the student in a virtual simulation, naiintindihan nila kung ano dapat nangyayari without having to step in an actual disaster situation,” he elaborates.

(By putting the student in a virtual simulation, they are able to understand what must be done without having to step in an actual disaster situation.)

Moreover, Naui mentions that Ania Design Lab’s disaster preparedness startup focuses on the underlying problem rather than conforming with the traditional methods, which differentiates them from other programs. “Pag tinignan mo kasi yung disaster preparedness education now, laging drills, seminars, mga roleplay,” he states. “Nagreflect kami bakit hindi enough yung mga natututunan ng mga estudyante when it comes to disaster preparedness situation eh ginagawa naman itong mga things na ‘to.

(When you look at the disaster preparedness education now, it’s always drills, seminars, and roleplays. We reflected on the reason why the learnings of the students are not enough when it comes to disaster preparedness situation even when these things are conducted.)

Lack of technology in rural areas

As a fairly new company, Ania Design Lab is highly exposed to facing obstacles in operational systems.

When asked about the challenges that their startup has experienced, Naui mentions that the one problem that they have encountered is implementing this type of technology for people who have no knowledge about it.

He explains that people who want to have a deeper understanding of VR could easily access and utilize their system in order to immerse themselves to it.

Although technology about this field could be looked up online, Naui expresses that people who live in rural areas are also being considered in their projects. For instance, the system that they are currently developing was created so as to involve more people. The overall price of this ongoing project has been lowered and will only basically require a virtual reality headset – which the startup will be able to provide.

Kasi yung system na dine-develop namin ngayon, kino-consider yung mga rural areas, yung mga public schools and ang reality is hindi natin pwedeng pilitin na bumili sila ng smartphone kasi mahal. So ang mangyayari is, para lang mas maraming people involved doon sa system namin, we pulled down to a price point na pwede na siyang magamit ng most people,” Naui explains.

(The system that we are currently developing also considers rural areas [and] public schools. The reality is we cannot force them to buy a smartphone since it is expensive. What will happen is, so that more people would be involved with the system, we pulled down to a price point that most people could be involved with the system.)

Naui also discloses that the main selling point of the project is the inclusiveness of it which is because of the accessibility of  smartphones and virtual reality headsets to people.

Tips and aims for the future

Naui shared his recommendations for people who plan to pursue the same field as Ania Design Lab. He enumerates three points, namely: people should talk to their customers, look for the underlying problem, and to never lie to themselves.

In the long run, he states that their company aims to explore other learning problems as well as to create a product that is not temporary. “Our focus in Ania is we’re not trying to solve just one learning problem, we try to solve as many problems as we can,” he shares.

Bea Francia

By Bea Francia

Danielle Aglubat

By Danielle Aglubat

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