Young Innovators from All Over Serbia Designed Solutions for Local Problems

Winners of the First STE(A)M Challenge Announced

March 28, 2024
UNDP Serbia

Belgrade, 28 March 2024 – Teams “Nije kompot nego kompost” (Not Compote but Compost) of the First Technical High School from Kragujevac, “Pančevo pametan grad” (Pančevo Smart City) of the High School of Mechanical Engineering "Pančevo", High School of Electrical Engineering "Nikola Tesla" and Medical High School "Stevica Jovanović” from Pančevo, and “EcoBytes” of the First Kragujevac Grammar School are the winners of the first STE(A)M Challenge in Serbia. Their solutions for applying science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, i.e. the STE(A)M disciplines, in solving local problems were chosen as the best among the ten teams participating in the finals of this competition held in Belgrade. 

The STE(A)M Challenge was organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Petlja foundation.

Assistant of the Minister of Education for Higher Education Aleksandar Jović addressed the participants and said that all the finalists of the STE(A)M Challenge are winners. “Through teamwork, you achieved what our education actually strives for, that is interdisciplinarity. The STE(A)M Challenge is an opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills, but also an opportunity to apply in practice the knowledge you have acquired by studying multiple subjects. We also hope that this challenge would encourage teachers to cooperate more in exchanging knowledge from different fields in order to make connections between different syllabi,” said Jović.

The “Not Compote but Compost” Team from Kragujevac addressed the problem of the huge amounts of biodegradable waste from the school yard, which could be turned into a useful product – compost. They created a roto composter with web application to manage the compost made from bio-waste, where users can monitor the condition of compost and receive notifications on any kind of irregularities, which makes the entire process more efficient. The “Pančevo Smart City” Team from Pančevo created an innovative solution which includes monitoring of the quality, temperature and humidity of air, as well as velocity and direction of wind via sensors. The other component are alarms concerning hazardous concentrations of dangerous matter, sent to the users via an Android mobile app as notifications. The “EcoBytes” Team from Kragujevac also worked on improving the quality of urban air. The solution by this team involves an ecosystem of unicellular algae located in a glass receptacle that produces oxygen and replaces carbon-dioxide, a product of pollution. The bioreactor includes a solar panel which powers the pump and lamp necessary for its work. The winning solutions will continue to serve their communities of origin, while they could also be potentially applied in other local communities. 

“With the ever-faster development of technology, and its current focus on the development of artificial intelligence, entirely new avenues of application have been opening up in different fields. This STE(A)M Challenge is oriented towards popularisation of using technology in solving concrete daily problems,” emphasised Director of Petlja Foundation Nebojša Vasiljević

The call issued in October 2023 was responded by 35 school teams from all over Serbia, who with the support by their teachers, identified problems in their local communities and developed innovative solutions to address them, based on the use of data and STE(A)M disciplines and technologies, such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, blockchain and robotics.  

UNDP Portfolio Manager for Digital Innovation Jelena Ružičić thanked teachers for the support they gave to their students in developing the innovative solutions. “My wish is that you continue to spread the team spirit that you have already demonstrated, and to develop knowledge, creativity and imagination in the STE(A)M disciplines. I am especially glad to see that all the teams are mixed, and that there are girls in each team. I wish you to continue to support each other and I hope that we will have as many girls as possible in STE(A)M disciplines,” said Ružičić.  

The finals of the Challenge was participated by ten school teams from: High Schools of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Medical High School from Pančevo, Technical High School from Pirot, “Svetozar Marković” Grammar School from Niš, Aleksinac Grammar School, “Saint Sava” Grammar School from Požega, Vrnjačka Banja Grammar School and two teams from the First Kragujevac Grammar School and First Kragujevac Technical High School each. They had eight weeks to develop their solutions, while for the duration of this period they received financial, mentoring and expert support of the project partners in realising their ideas. 

The jury that selected the winning solutions included: Danijela Šćepanović, independent counsellor in the Digitalisation Sector of the Ministry of Education, Milan Simić, development counsellor in Petlja Foundation, Davor Đošan, head of the UNDP IT sector, Zoja Kukić Đorđević, entrepreneur and Sara Oredić, consultant in the High Tech Engineering Center (HTEC). 

The three winning solutions were awarded one-day visits to the relevant actors of the startup ecosystems in Belgrade. Also, members of the teams and their teachers received vouchers for computer equipment amounting to USD 300 for each team member. 

In addition to the three winning solutions, the finals included a solution for river spilling which involved sensors and IoT technology, acoustic sensors to decrease noise in schools, a solution for remote watering of public green areas, an app for estimating the adequacy of soil for growing raspberry, a solution which involved sensors that monitored air quality, as well as a solution which monitored drivers’ awareness in order to prevent car accidents. 

You can read more information about all the finalists HERE.

STE(A)M Challenge was organised within the project “Building the Critical Computer Skills for the Future Ready Workforce” implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Petlja Foundation, and supported by the Government of the Republic of Serbia.