— AAAS Entrepreneur (@AAAS_Entr) September 20, 2016
AAAS Member Sana Hawasly is a computer engineer and CEO of Daraty, a Syrian startup that creates interactive kits to teach children the principles of electronics.
Sana was a finalist in this year’s GIST Tech-I Competition, an annual competition for science and technology entrepreneurs from 135 emerging economies around the world. GIST Tech-I is part of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative and has been implemented by AAAS since 2014.
We asked Sana why the Daraty team is passionate about United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4, Quality Education. Below is a summary of her responses.
What changes do you think education can effect in the world?
Education is a basic human right and an essential component in the process of advancing developing countries and their economies. By making quality education accessible to each and every child in the world, it helps us approach other global goals like eradicating hunger and boosting economic growth.
I truly believe that education is the structure that would bridge the gap and open the door for youth to join an interconnected world. Empowering by knowledge is what fuels my passion working with children and teenagers, and advancing their knowledge and know-how is my goal. I feel responsible for actively changing the status quo and help pave the way for the professionals of tomorrow.
Why should children learn about electronics?
Technology is a pillar of modern life and electronics is one of the most important tools to develop technology. When directing children’s creative thinking to solve problems with technology and providing them with the tools needed they produce great innovations.
Teaching children electronics doesn’t only provide them with a better understanding of circuits and computers, but also helps them improve their problem-solving skills and prepares them to be active in a world where technology is everywhere. AlHasan Muhammad Ali and I have been teaching Arduino and electronics to children in Syria for four years now and during that time we’ve been constantly looking for ways to make the experience more friendly and entertaining. We believe that teaching electronics and uncovering their endless applications is the fastest, most exciting way to learn and invent.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered and how have you innovated solutions?
Building a new educational technology from scratch with very limited resources and mentorship was one of the biggest challenges we had to overcome. Another was connecting with mentors and professionals in the fields of hardware and education, which proved difficult in the region, specifically in Syria. Moreover, the ongoing conflict in Syria has significantly slowed the growth of our startup, not only by having rationed access to power and internet, but also by rendering any effort to acquire the needed electronic components unfeasible. It has also diminished our chances for participating in various events outside of the country due to political strife.
Despite all the obstacles and challenges, we’re investing every available opportunity to further advance our startup until our goals are materialized so we pave the road for the next generation of Syrian entrepreneurs and share with them our learned lessons.
What’s next for the Daraty team?
As we are getting ready to initiate the testing phase, we are actively working on creating partnerships with educational institutions and schools. Piloting Daraty at a few selected schools will help us test our product with multiple age groups and collect much-needed feedback to improve user experience and fine-tune product design and eventually get ready for mass production.
Visit www.daraty.com for more information on Sana’s startup.