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Ethafa – Educational Kit to Teach Programming and Electronics Through Playful Interactive Stories

Editorial

The project management is responsible for the content of the information provided.

Cooperation

This project, funded by Gebert Rüf Stiftung, is supported by the following project partners: SUPSI University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI); Laboratory of visual culture; Fablab Lugano; Fablab Bahrain; Ated - ICT Ticino; Giza System Foundation; Arduino

Project data

  • Project no: GRS-015/20 
  • Amount of funding: CHF 150'000 
  • Approved: 13.01.2020 
  • Duration: 05.2020 - 04.2022 
  • Area of activity:  First Ventures, seit 2018

Project management

Project description

Ethafa is a kit to teach programming and electronics to kids from 10 to 12 years through playful interactive stories, and through an approach based on gender neutrality and cultural inclusion.
The project Ethafa is an educational ecosystem made of a physical kit and a tablet application. The kit consists of 5 programmable characters that can be assembled and then used to interact with the tablet application. The tablet application engages the kids in interactive stories featuring challenges that require problem-solving and programming skills to be solved. As key outputs of the digital ecosystem, Ethafa produces digital interactive stories, step-by-step tutorials and online guides and educational formats and workshops for teachers and parents. Ethafa releases novel approaches and contents to support the digital transformation in education through the inclusion of the 21st-century skills in learning, from technology literacy to team collaboration and storytelling. It generates products (the physical kit), services (the tablet app) and knowledge (educational contents) that can be adopted in schools, educational informal spaces, and private in-home play.
The project aims to engage kids, especially girls, in learning STEAM-related subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) and at the same time to support teachers and educators in the teaching of these subjects as they have a key role in the digital transformation in education.
The research question that Ethafa wants to address is «How to engage more kids, especially girls, in STEAM education with an activity addressing also the learning of 21st Century skills?»

What is special about the project?

In this globally and digitally interconnected world, children need to learn the 21st-century skills to enter the world with an understanding of what it takes to be a good citizen —one who can be civically engaged, critically thinking and digitally literate. Technology and science skills are becoming the fundamental pillars among the fastest-growing job categories, so it is essential to make technology education and careers inclusive for both genders and inclusive from a cultural point of view. Teachers and parents have a key role in this change, but they often face a lot of challenges when it comes to teaching STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math), as most of the students found the learning of these topics boring and irrelevant. The main problem is to access tools, resources and methods that simplify the technology teachings, make it engaging, gender balanced and culturally inclusive to train more students.
Ethafa is a special and innovative project because it addresses the above challenge through an approach based on storytelling and cultural inclusion. The core elements of the activity are the Steammians funny aliens that the kids have to assemble and play with using a tablet application and an interactive playful scenario. The stories and the didactic approach support a gender balance learning experience that guides the kids in a more funny interaction with electronics and programming.
The Steammians are companion toys that kids will use to play and learn in different contexts (at school or home). The ultimate benefit is that kids will not have di culties in learning STEAM subjects during their studies (secondary school, high school, university).

Status/Results

The project Ethafa has been designed and developed as a BA thesis in visual communication in 2017 at SUPSI, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland.
Following the BA Thesis, marketing and testing sessions have been carried out to receive feedback from an international audience: the project has been presented at fairs and events such as Maker Faire Zurich (Zürich), Grafik17 (Zürich), Maker Faire Rome (Rome), Swiss Digital Days (Lugano), FabLearn Europe 2018 (Trondheim).
Since September 2018, the project is supported by Fondazione Leonardo that awarded Leyla Tawfik with a full scholarship to further develop the prototype with an entrepreneurial approach while studying at MAS program in interaction Design SUPSI.
The current status of the beta product features the following interactions: the characters are connected via Bluetooth to a tablet application, by following the instructions on the application the kids can unlock different adventures featuring playful games based on STEAM content. The adventures are interactive stories, kids have to use problem-solving and computational thinking to advance in the storytelling and access new contents.
In September, Ethafa is officially incorporated as a company (Sagl), with Serena Cangiano and Leyla Tawfik as founders.
In 2021 the project advanced thanks to the support from GRS, and the establishment of new key partnership with San3a Tech (https://www.san3atech.com/) a company focused on providing STEAM solutions in MENA regions (Middle East and Nord Africa). Ethafa and San3a Tech are now designing an activity book to support educators in teaching electronics and science in the classroom.
In November the Ethafa project was selected among the 10 finalist of the competition Boldbrain.
In December 2021, the Ethafa team will run a series of workshops in Dubai at the Swiss Pavilion at Expo Dubai and in the Fablab Dubai and Fablab Al Zaina in Abu Dhabi.
The Ethafa kit is already used in workshops and events: kids can assembly the Steammians through step-by-step guides and can play and solve simple challenges.
The Ethafa project is also incubated within the Swiss EdTech Collider, the largest edtech incubator in Europe.

Links

Persons involved in the project

Project Ethafa Core Team
Leyla Tawfik, project leader, interaction designer
Serena Cangiano, business developer.
Reda Bousbah, software engineer
Hichem Ferchichi, Software developer

Partners and advisors of the project
Collaborators of the FabLab SUPSI.
Salman Alaraibi (FabLab Bahrain)
Lamiaa Nail (San3a Tech)
Omar ElSafty (San3a Tech Fablab Egypt)
Matteo Loglio (Founder at Primo Toys)
Massimo Banzi (Founder of the Arduino)

Last update to this project presentation  09.11.2022