Young innovators tout devices that combat COVID-19

From MOBOT to remote-op disinfection tool


Young innovators from the Philippines’ top colleges and universities offering solutions to help safeguard public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic have received support from Smart, the wireless unit of PLDT.

During the Demo Day of the Smart Prepaid Innovation Generation, teams from Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU), Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), University of Baguio (UB), and the University of Negros Occidental – Recoletos (UNO-R) showcased tools that communities can adopt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.

MMSU’s Project ULTRA (UV Light Disinfection Through Remote Automation) promises a cost-effective disinfection tool that’s simple to operate. The remote switch system makes use of a mobile app that automatically turns on UV lights to sanitize a room, then switches them off once disinfection has been completed.

“We were thinking of our frontliners when we came up with the project,” said Fraezznel Juness Albayalde. “We wanted to develop a solution that will lessen their workload and will protect those who protect us.”

The team said they almost quit when they faced coding challenges for their entry. But buoyed by their school’s support, they pushed on and were able to submit their requirements on time. They were also able to present a prototype on the Demo Day.

Meanwhile, the innovators from the University of Baguio assembled a low-cost sanitizing mobile robot (MOBOT) that uses UV light to disinfect an area. This mobot can move autonomously around hallways and corridors or it can also be manually steered using a remote control.

“UV lamps are often called germicidal lamps because they use radiation to disinfect the air, water, and nonpourous surfaces,” said Frenzel Castro. “When UV light hits the surface, it kills pathogens on surfaces that are often touched by persons.”

The group originally intended to market their device to hospitals to help staff sanitize areas while minimizing their exposure to harmful organisms such as the SARS-CoV-2. But throughout their consultations with their mentors, they realized that their mobile robot can also be used in gyms, restaurants, public transport vehicles, and other commercial establishments.

Inspired by medical frontliners, the team from University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos came up with C.A.M.P. (Contactless Automated Monitoring for Persons Under Monitoring). The device automatically sends temperature readings of PUMs directly to assigned health workers without the need for physical interaction.

Team UNO-R says sourcing the required components for the device proved to be a challenge. “We had to order online and most of the shops are located in Manila. It takes a week before the items are delivered to us,” explained Lex dela Torre. “But thanks to the guidance of our faculty advisor, we were able to adapt to the situation and found alternatives to make our machine work.”

PUP’s Project AEGIS (Allied Equipment for Guaranteed Increased Security) aims to make contact tracing more efficient. Speaking from individual experiences, they say that the current methods employed by most businesses in their community are cumbersome and are often disregarded by the public.

“We thought of an automated system where a customer simply walks into a booth and his vital signs and important details are automatically taken and stored,” said Francis Simeon. “We believe that getting the right information can be a powerful tool in helping curb the rising cases of COVID-19 in our communities.”

As a solution, the team crafted an all-in-one terminal that houses an infrared thermometer and automated disinfection machine that can be placed at entry points. The machine also records customers’ details through a QR code.

Under the Smart Prepaid Innovation Generation Program, the teams underwent five months of lectures and intense one-on-one mentorships with mavericks from the technology space and startup ecosystem.

The teams agree that the series of lectures strengthened their projects by rationalizing their efforts and focusing their attention on more viable options. The talks also opened their eyes to generating feedback from their target users so they can improve their tools further.

Participants from UB are grateful for learning sessions that helped them fill in their own lean canvas and craft their value proposition. They said, these lectures helped them understand their customers better and isolate issues or problems their proposed solution will address. Their mentorships also improved their prototype by testing features and applications to make their device more useful in the real world.

Team UNO-R appreciated the lecture on pitching the most. As engineering students, they said their degree focuses on the technical aspect of projects and pitching is not commonly taught in their course. But thanks to the lecture, they became more confident in talking about their proposed solution in front of people.

The developers from MMSU said that through the lectures, they were able to consider the business side, the legal aspect, and improving customer experience for their innovation. Talking about their Innovation Generation journey, they say the activities made them realize the importance of passion, inspiration and teamwork in overcoming challenges en route to reaching the team’s goal.

Through the program, the innovators from PUP realized that the greatest gift of innovation is the endless possibility of growing and transforming ideas to make them more relevant to different situations. The group is excited that their prototype has been gaining support from their professors who have been pushing for its implementation at the campus.

The first Smart Prepaid Innovation Generation was launched back in August last year coinciding with the celebration of the International Youth Day. 16 teams from the country’s leading colleges and universities qualified for the program and participated in seven lectures and more than 70 one-on-one mentorship sessions.

The initiative aims to harness the creativity and passion of the youth so they can live smarter for a better world. The small grants program challenges the current generation to develop technology-enabled, simple solutions to enable their communities to adapt to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Smart Prepaid Innovation Generation is part of Smart’s initiatives that support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) #4 on Quality Education. Digital literacy and education continue to be a flagship CSR program of Smart and its parent firm, PLDT, Inc.


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Gabriel

Introvert, wanderer, blogger, foodie, a hip-hop music writer, and one of the co-founders of a tech start-up company called GigsManila.