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 will be the companion toys that kids will use to play and learn in different contexts (at school or home). The ultimate benefit is that those kids will not have problems in learning STEAM subjects during their following studies (secondary school, high school, university).
The Ethafa project has been conceived to become a community driven initiative that contributes to the development and innovation in tech education. For this reason, the project constantly seeks for exchanges and collaborations with governments, companies, non profit organizations and communities.
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 prototype 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.
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.
FabLab Bahrain collaborates with Ethafa to launch a program to train teachers on STEAM subjects during lockdown by Sarah Faisal, Startup Bahrain, September 2020.
Giovani Talenti “Una millennial di carattere” by Natascha Fioretti, Inline n.3, 2020.Open resources for thinking with computational artefacts at school by Maria Luce Lupetti, Serena Cangiano, Gabriele Ermacora, Ludovico Orlando Russo and Cristina Riesen. FabLearn Europe 2018, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway, December 2018.
Girlfriend Guide to Zurich, article “Mini Maker Fair Zurich” by Zuri Girl. Blog online, September 2017.
Ethafa: un kit di Maker Education per ragazze egiziane by Leyla Tawfik. Bachelor thesis, Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera italiana (SUPSI), August 2017.
Persons involved in the project
Project Ethafa Core TeamLeyla Tawfik
, project leader, interaction designerSerena Cangiano
, business developer. Reda Bousbah
, software engineerHichem Ferchichi
, Software developer
Partners and advisors of the project
Collaborators of the FabLab SUPSI
Salman Alaraibi, FabLab Bahrain
Norhan Zahraan, Giza System Foundation
Matteo Loglio, founder at Primo Toys
Massimo Banzi, founder at Arduino
Last update to this project presentation 11.01.2021