24 August 2023

An Inspiring Journey of Change through Innovation

By Communication Media

Join Athena Studio’s journey from a capstone project to an AR game promoting environmental awareness.

This guest post is by Elizabeth Voong and Ts John Hii Ing Kieng.

In the ever-evolving world of education and technopreneurship, it’s common to find stories of young minds working together to create projects that truly make a difference.

One such remarkable story began in September 2022, when a group of students – Daphaney Wong Xu Xian, Andra Bong Kiun Vun (both studied Bachelor of Business (Management and Digital Media)), Chai Xueki, and Ng Li Ying (both studied Bachelor of Design (Multimedia Design)) – embarked on a journey that led to the birth of Athena Studio. This startup would soon propel them to the forefront of Malaysia’s thriving startup arena. Their journey, from a Design capstone project at Swinburne Sarawak to national recognition, highlights the immense power of teamwork, mentorship and innovation.

Embarking on a Vision: Genesis at Swinburne Sarawak

The story of Athena Studio takes root at Swinburne Sarawak, where these students joined forces for their final year Motion Design Capstone Project. Little did they anticipate that this initial spark would set them on a path to an even more remarkable adventure.

Stepping into the Spotlight: The LaunchX Experience

February 2023 marked a turning point as Athena Studio entered the transformative world of the 3+2-month LaunchX program, hosted by Sunway Innovation Labs at Sunway University (iLabs Foundry). This program marked a pivotal moment for the budding startup. 

Climbing the Ladder of Excellence: Triumph Amidst Competition

In the face of fierce competition, where 64 startups from 27 universities aimed for a spot in the initial three-month program, only 24 managed to secure entry into the program.

Announcement of the top 10 startups in the LaunchX programme

Announcement of the Top 10 startups at the launch of the LaunchX program.

After rigorous workshops and mentoring sessions, Athena Studio secured a coveted top ten position, granting them an additional two months to refine and validate their marketable minimum viable product (MVP), bringing them closer to potential product commercialisation.

Empowering Dreams: TEGAS’ Support

Tabung Ekonomi Gagasan Anak Sarawak (TEGAS) provided unwavering support, covering flights and accommodation for the team. Jacob Jim, Executive – Program and Partnership from TEGAS Digital Village, commended the team’s progress. He commented how proud TEGAS is of their potential to be game developers.

“Team Athena has shown significant improvements since I first met them at Swinburne’s capstone event in 2022. They’ve truly refined the game,” he concluded.

A Spark Ignites: Emerging as a Top Startup

Emerging as one of the top two startups from Sarawak in the program’s elite top ten, Athena Studio’s hard work and innovation garnered nationwide recognition. Guided by mentors such as Foo Huey Chyun from Petrosains Sdn Bhd and Ts John Hii Ing Kieng from Swinburne Sarawak, the startup’s growth reached new heights.

TEGAS provided unwavering support through sponsorship of team flight and accommodation.

The Athena Studio team (centre) and guests with (from left) Karen Lau (Sunway Innovation Labs), Manzoor Hayat Khan (Senior Manager, TEGAS Digital Village & Digital Innovation Hub), Afida Zaidi (Manager – Program and Partnership, TEGAS).

Fostering Change: The Birth of Tolong²

Throughout the program, Athena Studio fine-tuned its skills, refined its pitch, enhanced its business model canvas and navigated the intricate world of startup technopreneurship. Their creation, Tolong², an interactive storytelling game focusing on environmental awareness in children, landed a coveted spot during the pre-accelerator phase.

Merging Art and Advocacy: The Immersive Reality in Tolong²

Tolong² is an immersive augmented reality game that artfully blends interactive storytelling with environmental conservation. The team’s passion for both storytelling and the environment inspired them to create a game that not only entertains players but also educates them about the impact of pollution on Malaysia’s animals.

The primary goal of Tolong² is to raise awareness about environmental issues and encourage sustainable practices among players. By fostering emotional connections between players and animal characters, the creators hope to inspire positive actions in both individuals’ lives and communities.

A Journey of Excellence: From MVP to LaunchX Demo Day

With unyielding dedication, the team polished their MVP in the final months, conducting thorough pilot testing and officially incorporating their business enterprise. The culmination of their efforts was showcased on LaunchX Demo Day 2023, where they presented their business idea and pilot results to potential investors and accelerator programs. The event highlighted their remarkable progress and growth, as they seek further support and forge valuable connections for their startup’s further development. 

Tolong² has been met with positive reviews from players and critics alike. The game has been praised for its educational content, engaging gameplay, and use of AR technology.

Team Athena

Athena Studio is made up of (from left) Andra Bong Kiun Vun, Ng Li Ying, Chai Xueki, and Daphaney Wong Yun Xian. Ts John Hii Ing Kieng is at the centre, in red.

A Journey of Vision and Innovation

Again, the story of Athena Studio is a testament to the power of collaboration, mentorship, and innovation. It showcases how young minds can come together to create projects that make a difference and inspire positive change. The development of Tolong² is a remarkable achievement that blends interactive storytelling with environmental conservation, raising awareness about environmental issues and encouraging sustainable practices among players. As we look forward to their next chapter, we can’t wait to see how Athena Studio continues to make a lasting impact.

Elizabeth Voong is the Associate Dean, External Engagement and Impact, and a Lecturer in Accounting at Swinburne Sarawak’s School of Business. Ts John Hii is a Multimedia Design Lecturer at Swinburne Sarawak. Elizabeth and John are with the university’s Faculty of Business, Design and Arts.

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