Robotics and AI for school students in Croatia

Anita Belančić

In continental Croatia, a small town of Ogulin, there is a future-oriented school. A school teacher Adriana Vukelja one day proudly mentioned her cousin Danica Kragić Jensfelt, a successful robotic scientist working in Sweden. Danica is a Professor at the School of Computer Science and Communication at the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH and, we thought it would be a great idea to invite her to give a lecture for our students about this high-tech science and possibilities for the students in a STEM career.

Meanwhile, our school has joined a nationwide project called School of the future organized by two prominent companies STEMI and Infobip.

The goal of the project is to connect the tech industry with schools and help schools introduce applied artificial intelligence. More than 60 schools, 1000 students, and 150 teachers are participating in the project and collaborating on a daily basis. One of these teachers is Anita Belancic from our school.

Having inclusion and collaboration in mind she suggested expanding the audience by including other schools participating in the project.

She discussed the idea with the project leader Marin Trošelj from STEMI and they concluded it would be even better to open the lecture for all schools in Croatia, especially in the time when we had to go back to online mode and everybody in the country needed a little bit of motivation.

In less than 24 hours more than 400 people applied to attend the lecture and over 800 by the day of the lecture.The lecture was held on April 20, 2021. with more than 650 participants joining the virtual classroom from all over Croatia, and many of them were teachers with even more students in the physical classroom.

This means that Danica´s words of encouragement promoting STEM careers reached over 1000 young people in Croatia.
Students had the unique opportunity to listen to one of the world-leading experts about the newest scientific research in robotics and AI. They were encouraged and motivated by hearing the personal story of a girl from Croatia becoming one of the leading scientists in this technology field in the world. Students were extremely engaged and they were constantly asking a lot of questions, more than 300 over course of the lecture. 

Danica took time after the lecture to answer some of them with a warm, accessible, friendly, and encouraging approach.

To show their gratitude, Primary school Ivana Brlić Mažuranić Ogulin prepared a small gift for Danica. It was an illustration made exclusively for her by the local artist Ana Salopek. This was a good way to add some Art to this STEM story because we all know it fits just perfectly in between ST and EM.

This was a nice demonstration of how a small local initiative can grow into a national initiative in a record time and engage a large number of students and teachers.  All we need is to be open, proactive, supportive and, willing to share our ideas with others.