Philippines: Local experts develop quake-proof desks for preschoolers
The research team developed not only a resilient study desk for kindergartens but also a warning system when earthquakes occur, a safety infrastructure for students to use, and a learning tool to passive disaster preparation of kindergarten.
After the recent consecutive earthquakes in Luzon and the Visayas, people have become more aware of the importance of being prepared for tremors.
"The Big One", a cataclysmic event that the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (DOST-PHIVOLCS) has been forewarning for years, is expected to reach up to magnitude 8.5. Such massive force can substantially destroy populated areas in Metro Manila, including residential areas, businesses, and schools.
To help educational institutions become more prepared for quake-related disasters such as “The Big One”, a group of researchers from the Philippine Normal University (PNU), De La Salle University, and Technological University of the Philippines developed a high impact-proof automated study desk for preschool children.
Called “LAMESA” for Life-Saving Automated Mesa to Endure Seismic Activity, the desk serves as a “a survival tool and a teaching aid to initiate ‘active’ disaster preparation,” according to PNU’s Dr. Marie Paz E. Morales, research team leader.
“La mesa” or “mesa” means “table” in Filipino.
LAMESA combines technology with capacity building in terms of knowledge and infrastructure to best address such probable disaster, particularly in educational institutions.
According to the research team, they developed not only a resilient study desk for kindergartens but also a warning system when earthquakes occur, a safety infrastructure for students to use, and a learning tool to passive disaster preparation of kindergarten.
“Though we instill earthquake preparation in the curriculum or in the lessons teachers teach, this ‘passive’ preparedness may not holistically develop survival skills among the young,” said Morales.
She said that in developing the LAMESA prototype, her team held extensive interviews and consultations with early childhood education experts on how the concepts of disaster risk reduction and preparedness may be integrated in the kindergarten curriculum using the prototype.
The team envisions LAMESA to spur high survival rates in case of a devastating earthquake in schools.
The desk—measuring 1.22 m in length, 0.69 m in width and 3.327 cm in tabletop thickness—uses lightweight but highly strong and elastic materials to comply with kindergarten standards. Its height of 0.57 m ensures that up to four kindergarteners, with an average height of .91 m (or three feet), will be able to hide under the table.
The steel table top is coated with epoxy paint to make it durable and slick, while the steel legs come with rubber footings to minimize sliding during tremors. Its center legs, meanwhile, support a storage bin with sliding door for lighting devices plus ample food and water supplies for up to nine kindergarteners.
Moreover, LAMESA is equipped with an accelerometer, a device that senses motion, which feeds seismic measurements to a Wi-Fi-enabled microcontroller. This microcontroller then simultaneously triggers the actuator which causes the table top to fold 16 degrees upward.
LAMESA likewise has a built-in alarm system that activates when vibration levels are above-normal. Further, it has a 13-bit liquid crystal display which shows the intensity level and instructs people to evacuate when needed.
LAMESA’s system and program design boast of good peak ground acceleration. With a fixed response time of four seconds, this allows the children to duck, cover, and hold much sooner.
“[On] average, a strong earthquake that may cause debris lasts about 30 to 40 seconds. This means that LAMESA’s four-second response time provides ample time to shield children from debris during an earthquake,” Dr. Morales emphasized.
More improvements ahead
LAMESA’s prototype design is a collective effort of a group of engineers, geology and volcanology experts, machinists, woodworkers, and technicians. The final design was evaluated by various stakeholders including parents, teachers, school principals, and a district supervisor.
Overall, evaluators gave LAMESA a big plus for its features, design and aesthetics, and mechanism functionality. Some areas though need to be improved, such as surface hardness, texture, and wiring placement.
The researchers ensured that a modified design would undergo strength test and include auxiliary materials like safety reminders and training kits.
“We are [also] contemplating on using fiberglass instead. We also thought of using a wall sensor to manage a set of desks,” Dr. Morales revealed.