Filipino experts develop quake-resistant desk for pre-schoolers

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Filipino experts develop quake-resistant desk for pre-schoolers

(Philstar.com) – April 26, 2019 – 12:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — Local experts developed an “earthquake-proof” study desk for pre-school children that is also equipped with a warning system, the Department of Science and Technology said Friday.

In a release issued days after the strong earthquakes that hit Luzon and Visayas, the department’s Science and Technology Information Institute said a group of researchers from the Philippine Normal University, De La Salle University and the Technological University of the Philippines developed a “high impact-proof automated study desk” for pre-schoolers.

The desk which serves as “a survival tool and a teaching aid to initiate ‘active’ disaster preparation” is called LAMESA or Life-Saving Automated Mesa to Endure Seismic Activity.

The research team led by Dr. Marie Paz Morales said it has developed not only a resilient study desk 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 pupils.

“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,” Morales said.

‘LAMESA’

This handout from DOST shows the parts of LAMESA. DOST, Handout

The desk—measuring 1.22 meters in length, 0.69 meters in with and 3.327 centimeters in tabletop thickness—uses lightweight but strong and elastic materials that comply with standards. Up to four kindergarten students with an average height of three feet will be able to hide under the table.

The steel tabletop is coated with epoxy paint to make it durable and slick, while the steel legs have rubber footings to minimize sliding during tremors. The table’s center legs support a storage bin with sliding door to store lighting devices as well as food and water supplies for up to nine preschoolers.

LAMESA, moreover, is equipped with an accelerometer—a device that senses motion—which feeds seismic measurements to a Wi-Fi-enabled microcontroller. The microcontroller then triggers the actuator which causes the tabletop to fold 16 degrees upward.

It likewise has a built-in alarm system that activates when vibration levels are above normal and a 13-bit liquid crystal which shows the intensity level and instructs people to evacuate when needed.

According to the research team, LAMESA’s system and program design boast of good peak ground acceleration.

“[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 an ample time to shield children from debris during an earthquake,” Morales said.  

Improvements needed

According to the DOST release, evaluators thumbed up LAMESA’s prototype design for its features, design and aesthetics, and mechanism functionality. Some areas such as surface hardness, texture and wiring placement, however, need to be improved.

The researchers said the modified design would undergo a strength test and include materials such as 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 said.

The study was included in the Philippine Journal of Science Volume 148, No. 1 published last month. — Gaea Katreena Cabico