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Innovation: The way to the future

- Rosary Diane Maligalig () - January 23, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines needs to catch up with its neighboring countries in terms of innovating and creating inventive ways to deal with all kinds of situations. Thus the creation of the Ateneo Innovation Center (AIC), which highlights how Filipinos are naturally innovative and how these “adaptations” are the key to development.

Dr. Greg Tangonan, AIC director, in a talk at the Ateneo entitled “Innovation Imperative: Playing the Global Innovation Game in the Context of the Philippines,” said this was most obvious when the Philippines lost 20,000 jobs to Vietnam when an Intel factory shut down.

“If we don’t innovate, we don’t create our own products, we will be left behind,” Tangonan said, “there is an imperative here in the Ateneo that we innovate.”

After all, he said, it is only in the Philippines that one can find a jack of all trades — who can fix everything from shoes to car parts to electronic gadgets — in almost every corner.

Tangonan gave examples of the innovations that Filipinos have come up with, such as PasaLoad, instant messaging, and the one-terabyte flashdrive.

“We have these examples, we have this talent,” he said, adding that the Filipinos’ resourcefulness is “highly respected all over the world.” The problem is no matter how creative Filipinos are, “almost nothing is coming out of that pipeline,” he said.

Tangonan then proceeded with the presentation and gave the example of how Apple Inc. became successful. “Apple is the king of innovation (because) hardware and software (were) integrated into a beautiful design optimized for user experience. It’s all about the user experience not about the hardware,” he said.

Tangonan reminded the audience that the user experience is important. He said, “As we march forward doing innovation, we have to ask ourselves what is the user experience.”

What better way to experience these innovations first-hand than actual classes that foster the creativity of the students to think outside the box.

Innovation classes

Currently, two Innovation classes are being taught at the Ateneo: Innovation and Technology by Tangonan, and Innovation for the Base of the Pyramid (social development focus) by Mark Ruiz.

Matthew Cua, an MS Environmental Science candidate and the operations officer for special projects and interns at the AIC, talked about what kind of innovations the center has come up with.

Cua said that the AIC focuses on the following: Disaster Science, because the Philippines encounters all sorts of disasters from typhoons to floods and landslides; Green and Sustainable Technology, because the future is about sustainability; and Biomedical Innovations, because almost six out of 10 Filipinos have no access to health care.

Cua cited the AIC’s Solarized clean water innovation, which enabled the center to be among the “first responders to the Sendong disaster, providing clean drinking water.”

He also talked about the wastewater facility already up and running at the Ateneo campus. The facility uses “solar panels and natural cleaning systems to clean wastewater,” thus making the Ateneo’s Mateo Ricci building a “zero waste building.”

Another special project of the center is producing the world’s first bamboo electric bike in accordance with European standards.

The center also has two university-level projects: Creating a sustainable and holistic aquaculture community in Lake Palakpakin in San Pablo, Laguna, and the Ateneo Algae team which is exploring the science and industry use of algae.       

Cua also enumerated some of the center’s biomedical innovations capable of tele-rehab, and the mindwave-controlled wheelchair. All these innovations truly serve as lampposts to a sustainable and environment-friendly future.

Innovations in action

After the presentation, the audience was enjoined to try out the innovations, mostly from the AIC. Some innovations are actual thesis projects of students.

Paul Cabacungan, AIC operations officer, showed the innovations and explained how most of them work. Among the innovations presented were the following:

• The magnetic stirrer, an instrument for laboratory use, which is actually a cheaper alternative for schools because it costs only about P1,000, according to Cabacungan. Commercially, a stirrer with the same capabilities costs P20,000.

• The coconut speakers with dancing LED lights, which are actually old speakers mounted on coconut shells which do not only serve as speakers but are replete with “dancing” or blinking LED lights as well.

• The SkyEye, which is a fixed wing UAV helicopter called the S-6 and which is used for digitizing the Ateneo campus. The multi-rotor UAV is codenamed “NightFury” (www.skyeyeproject.com).

• Non-toxic and drinkable screen cleaner: design done by Sam Chan (V BFA ID), chemistry by Cua and Dr. Nestor Valera (chairman, Chemistry department), and sold by freshman Management students Abigail Chen, Toobx Cx, and Merridith Gaw.

• The mobile field server propulsion system used in the Lake Palakpakin project, which is powered by solar panels and uses radiator fans. The server prevents fish kills as it records data from the lake such as temperature and oxygen levels.

• The mindwave, which is a thesis project of Emmanuel Bagasing, a fifth-year BS ECE student. Bagasing said it works through “peripheral control using electroencephalogram (EEG) signals which are electronic activities in the forehead.” He added: “These signals are sent to the laptop and when the signals are processed, appliances are controlled using a micro-controller.” An example is the mindwave-controlled wheelchair. 

• The “Kapture,” which is a Kinect-assisted platform for tele-coaching and user rehabilitation. It is a thesis project of JP Azcueta, Justin Sumulong and Delfin Villanueva, all fifth-year BS ECE students. They actually use Kinect to “quantify data” and then “track the skeletal body.” Using the data gathered, the device is useful for tele-coaching and tele-rehab for patients with injuries.   

Truly, innovation is the way of the future, and these innovations offer a glimpse of what the future holds for everyone.

ATENEO CENTER CUA INNOVATION INNOVATIONS LAKE PALAKPAKIN TANGONAN
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