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Free University of Bozen-Bolzano


Smart Object Design by Children as Protagonists

Seven PhD programs are currently offered at unibz, and in one of them Eftychia Roumelioti, a PhD candidate in Human-Centered Computing, got the best student award for a presented paper.

"SNaP is a collaborative board game that guides children into the design of smart objects for specific environments”, Eftychia Roumelioti tells us. “During the game, children are challenged to complete missions, combine cards that represent environment objects, input and output devices, ideate smart objects and reflect on them. It is a novel and playful design toolkit that can be used in workshops with children and help them to explore prototyping toolkits creatively.”

She created the game from scratch, being a PhD candidate in the group of Human-Centered Computing at the Faculty of Computer Science. Eftychia Roumelioti holds a Bachelor’s degree in Informatics (AUEB, Greece) and a Master's degree in Cultural Informatics and Communication (UAegean, Greece) and is now working in her final PhD year in the field of Interaction Design and more specifically on enabling children to design their own smart objects through a game. “I really enjoy working within an interdisciplinary team and with children in the area of Bozen-Bolzano”, she says.

Eftychia Roumelioti is mastering her 4-year PhD research at the Faculty of Computer Science, supervised by Rosella Gennari, Alessandra Melonio and Mehdi Rizvi. She studied how to engage children in a playful design process: through a series of playful activities facilitated by the SNaP game, children learn how to create, program and fabricate their own smart things and critically reflect on the impact of technology on their life, with computer scientists expert of smart design with children. 

“We are all surrounded by so called smart objects, from smart watches to smart homework devices”, explains Rosella Gennari. “In simple terms, smart objects are every day’s objects made 'smart' or 'intelligent' through computing devices. However, many of us, and schools in particular, have no saying in their creation and have no real grasp on their potentials or risks.”

A grasp on the potentials of this work saw several conferences, as Eftychia’s results have been published in international venues such as MTAP, DIS, AVI, IS-EUD, MIS4TEL. In 2019 she won the first award of the International ASLERD conference design competition in 2019, and the second award of the International MIS4TEL conference student competition in 2020. Now at the 10th International Conference in Methodologies and Intelligent Systems for Technology Enhanced Learning, held online, her paper on “Smart Object Design by Children as Protagonists” got her the best student paper award.

However, the approach has further potentials, which Roumelioti is exploring in her last year of work together with the Politecnico di Milano: it also caters for the needs of adults, for example designers, who are willing to create their own smart environments.