How One Grad Student Is Using VR to Empower People in Active Shootings

By Taylor Bell

In a world where mass shootings are, sadly, all too common, Neilda Pacquing wants to empower people in such a terrifying scenario. Her solution? A virtual reality tool that trains people on how to respond in an active shooter situation. It's a product from her newly founded company MindGlow, and she hopes it will be a key to saving lives in the future.

In 2019 alone, there have been over 200 mass shootings in the U.S. according to the Gun Violence Archive. Although there might not be a way to stop these mass shootings, Pacquing believes there is a way to help prevent future loss of life.

The USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy graduate student created the Virtual Reality Active Shooter Response Training App. It's a resource targeted at businesses and employees that simulates the environment of an active shooter at an office building, work station, cafeteria and other places you might imagine. All you need is an Oculus Go device to download the app and get started.

It includes activities and simulations such as: real firearm sounds, listening drills, and the Run-Hide-Fight method taught by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"At MindGlow, we asked ourselves, how might we prepare people for crisis and emergencies in an engaging way that promotes behavior change? Pacquing said. We concluded that using virtual reality (VR) needs to be part of the solution to train employees in a safe and controlled space."

For many businesses, active shooter workshops and online-training courses might be costly, time-consuming and not impactful. Pacquing hopes her VR tool will change that.

According to a recent study, VR-based training is more effective at increasing retention than traditional desktop-based training. In fact, companies like Walmart have already incorporated VR into employee training programs.

"We designed the VR experience to create a behavior change and instinct to react quickly when it happens in real life, Pacquing said. The goal is to help people avoid the freeze response that happens when they find themselves in a dangerous situation."

Before Pacquing was the CEO and founder of MindGlow, she was just an undergrad with a dream to help people. As a UX designer, she landed jobs as the Senior Designer at Sephora and as the Vice President, Mobile Interaction Designer at Bank of America. During this time, her fascination for the world of VR began to grow.

"I must have gone to hundreds of VR events, meetups, and classes throughout the years, Pacquing said. I saw the opportunity to integrate my passion for VR/AR/XR, safety, and training together and started MindGlow. To help execute her new entrepreneurial vision, Pacquing turned to the Academy. I've always wanted to go to grad school, but it was challenging finding a program that would integrate my passion for technology, experience as a designer, and need for business knowledge to prepare me to be a startup founder....The Academy was just the perfect fit," Pacquing said.

Recently, the 31-year-old and her company received some much needed financial support. At the beginning of this year, MindGlow became a Boost VC-backed company. In addition, Pacquing will begin a 12-week program at Nasdaq Milestone Makers that's designed to help founders reach the next phase of their business.

For MindGlow, that means launching its Active Shooter Response online course. Topics will include: highlighting workplace violence, recognizing active shooter red flags, cultivating situational awareness, understanding the freeze response, and teaching survival mindsets.

"Knowledge is power," Pacquing said. "Our goal with MindGlow is to help people feel empowered to know what to do when emergencies strike. With that, we aim to save many lives as possible in the process."

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