It’s a fact! Children get engaged in technology education when it is too late and they find it boring and too difficult. The Eolim Steammians Kit is a STEAM educational kit that guides young kids - 9-10 years-old citizens - to develop key future skills such as technology literacy (electronics) and science through interactive stories. How does it do it? By bridging the physical and digital realm in hands-on exploratory play.
In this globally and digitally interconnected world, children need to develop key 21st-century skills to enter the world with an understanding of what it means 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 inclusive for both genders and inclusive from a cultural point of view. Educators 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 support more students.
The project Ethafa addresses the above challenges through an approach based on storytelling and cultural inclusion. While learning how to make simple circuits, the students explore a specific STEM subject, and they solve a problem.
The Steammians stories support a gender-neutral learning experience that guides the kids in a more funny interaction with the electronic components. The Steammians are companion toys that kids could use to play and learn in different contexts (at school or at home). The kit will grow with them as they expand their competences.
The project started as a BA thesis at the design university of Lugano. Leyla Tawifk, the co-founder wanted to learn more about Arduino and she found out that girls are always scared by technologies. As half Egyptian, she wanted to develop a project that could also address the gender gap in technology in her father’s home country. She made many prototypes and participated in events about maker education in Europe to better understand how to bring this knowledge to young girls in a simple way.
She got the support by Leonardo Foundation and GRS foundation to bring her idea to life:
she created a team and worked intensely on the development of the tablet application, the hardware of the physical kit and the creation of co-created content with educators and K12 teachers. Thanks to the support of Fablab SUPSI she could learn from prototyping and testing with the users.
Ethafa is a Swiss start-up company and it is ready to launch the tablet application for Android and an activity book that has been created in collaboration with San3a Tech, a Cairo based company specialized in maker educational and digital skills development.
The kit is already been used to run workshops in Europe and in the MENA regions (Middle East and Nord Africa). In December, Ethafa has been presented as one of the Swiss leading startups in the field of education and the kit has been showcased at the Swiss Pavilion at Expo Dubai 2020, in that occasion the founders Leyla and Serena also organized workshops with local schools.
In the upcoming months Ethafa it’s going to run a series of workshops in Doha (Qatar), and Abu Dhabi (UAE).
Ethafa is an Arduino-based product: the kids engage with the Steammians, funny aliens that want to learn more about planet Earth. They can play with the Steammians using a tablet application - or for a more collaborative experience with their classmates - they can access the adventures on the lesson plans. The best part for the teacher is that thanks to the "Ethafa framework stories" they can easily teach a topic of their curriculum using the Steammians adventures.
At home, kids can play with the Ethafa app (that will be released in 2022): at the moment features the 5 adventures with Eolim, the biologist. In every adventure the kid has to help the Steammian learn something about how to create an automatic irrigation system.
The stories feature STEAM subjects like how light is working and classification through colours as well as the introduction to basic electronics components like the temperature sensor and some coding-blocks.
In the classroom the kids are engaged in collaborative activities featuring step-by-step instructions to add special abilities to the Steammians. During the activities kids learn about electronics and through the stories about science and technology.
We strongly believe that for real change in education we need first to involve educators. This is why we are also organizing trainings for teachers to teach STEAM in their classroom and since last year how to engage in hands-on activities remotely.