Wifire Lab

To increase public understanding of prescribed burns

Duration: 12 Weeks             Team: Akhila Nivarthi, Haley Sadler, Sujana Nagasuri, Jahnavi Handral      Skills: User research, Prototyping


The Design Lab at UCSD hosted a designathon for all students, affiliated with WIFIRE lab. Our prompt was to make a concept design for a physical or virtual installation that will increase public understanding and acceptance of prescribed burns as an important tool for ending devastating megafires. 

My team decided to target communities in fire prone areas through an interactive game that introduces prescribed fires. In the game, the player first sees an out of control fire, then goes through the process of planning and executing a prescribed burn from the perspective of a burn boss(the leader of a prescribed burn operation). Our goal from this game was to help the player compare the effects of an out of control fire to a prescribed fire, as well as show them the careful planning that goes into prescribed burns.

Since my team won this designathon, we were given the opportunity to intern at Wifire lab over the summer and make our idea a reality.

Problem Statement:

How might we educate communities in fire prone areas and help them realize that prescribed burns are beneficial, increasing their willingness to incorporate more prescribed burns?

User Research

Common Insights from interviews:

  • Most people are unaware of what a prescribed burn is
  • People do not have good opinions of prescribed burns; believe they are dangerous
  • In order to change their opinions, people would want an explanation of the effects of prescribed burns, and to be aware of the process

We started off conducting research to increase our own knowledge and understanding of prescribed burns. We all compiled different resources such as articles, videos, and other resources and put them all together.

We also decided to interview people in fire prone communities in order to get their perspective on prescribed burns, We interviewed a total of 5 people.

These user interviews helped us understand what these stakeholders want in order to understand prescribed burns better

Original Idea

Originally, our idea was to create a VR game that will take the user through the process of a prescribed burn. However, due to a lack of resources and time, we were only able to create a prototype of a mobile game. Our original lofi prototype was a physical prototype we created of how the setup would look like.

Wireframes & Sketches

Once we changed our idea to a mobile game, we started sketching out ideas of how we wanted the game to look like. We sketched out the home page, along with a map and the mini games we brainstormed.


We started our first round of lofi prototyping on figma, which we then got feedback about from our managers and updated again. We decided to split the game into 4 different mini games, all of which show a different part of the process of a prescribed burn.

After our first round of prototyping, we conducted user testing on some of our fellow interns and our manager. We used the insights from this user testing to improve our prototype and add a map to show the user the layout of the game, as well as an introduction and conclusion to set the scene. We also finalized the game designs so it flowed well and selected a character to represent the player.

After gathering insights and going through multiple iterations, we started to move onto our final prototype and designs, which we would then present to our manager.

Final Designs

After user testing and multiple iterations, we finished the hi-fi prototype of our game. We had 4 mini games: preparation optimal weather conditions, safety routes, and monitoring borders.

Final Thoughts

This experience was my first design internship, and it will be something I won't ever forget. Since this was a short term project and part time over the summer, we were only able to create a Figma prototype of how we wanted our game to look like. We also attended a design showcase in which we were able to present our project to higher ups in the lab, in the hopes that our game may become a reality one day.

Figma prototype link