Event review: Engaging Science with and for Youth

The event focused on science education and public engagement, in particular on STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), with the aim of facilitating the open dialogue between different interest groups…

May 19, 2023

The event focused on science education and public engagement, in particular on STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), with the aim of facilitating the open dialogue between different interest groups (pupils, students, professors, policy makers and industry representatives).

Date: 27-28 April 2023
Location: Faculty of Political Science, University of Banja Luka
Organizer: University of Banja Luka
Format: physical

Who attended the event?

During two days, the event gathered 55 participants from the Western Balkans and beyond.

What happened at the event?

The idea was to bring together students (both secondary school students and first year of undergraduate students) from all WB countries of WBC-RRI.NET to present their innovative work (either as practical solutions/products or as innovative ideas for problem-solving) to their peers and the wider public. Furthermore, the main goal of the event was to enable mutual learning and open dialogue between and across different stakeholder groups (students, professors, policy makers, industry representatives, facilitators and supporters etc.) resulting in a list of recommendations for the improvement of STE(A)M education across the region using a responsible research and innovation approach as well as an overview of good practices in engaging youth in the innovation creation processes.


STEM education in the Western Balkans: overview of challenges and recommendations, Ena Kosanovic, UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Meaning and importance of STEAM education
  • IT Girls initiative – project aiming to encourage girls to start thinking about education and eventually potential career in the world of information technology, from early age on. It started off as an initiative of young employees of United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where this idea and this topic was voted as best one in the “UNder30 Innovation Challenge”
  • EGG project – Introducing STEM learning in secondary and elementary schools to cultivate interest in technological disciplines in children.

Presentation of WBC-RRI.NET ‘anchor’ activities focusing on Science Education/Public Engagement

Albania, Kejt Dhrami, Co-PLAN, Institute for Habitat Development, Albania

  • Presenting The Kune-Vain-Tale wetland ecosystem in Albania
  • Citizen science activities on the participative assessment methods for the ecosystem services in the Kune-Vain-Tale ecosystem
  • Target RRI keys: Public Engagement combined with Governance
  • Presenting five services: Carbon sequestration, Waste Water Treatment, Flood protection, Fishery production, Recreational and Cultural Service

Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republic of Srpska), Andjela Pepic, University of Banja Luka

  • Presenting the co-designed anchor activities with focus on Activity 2 – Improving STE(A)M education
  • Development of Manual for STE(A)M educators on the introduction of RRI in the teaching process
  • Ideathon ‘Innovative ideas for a better quality of life’ as a joint action with UNDP BiH(supported by the Ministry for Scientific and Technological Development, Higher Education and Information Society of the Republic of Srpska and Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Srpska)
  • Workshops and training events for STE(A)M educators as the next activities

Montenegro, Niksa Bulatovic, ZONA

  • PRONA – first foundation that got involved in research work with young talents and collected the enthusiasm of many professors and engineers for the promotion of science in society
  • Science and Technology Park Montenegro actively participate in the implementation of the support program for the development of innovations – for high school students:
    – cooperation with the Innovation Fund and ICT cluster Cortex
    – stimulation high school student to develop innovative solutions in various fields
    – Support for the development of principles for socially responsible thinking-
    – Focus on social activism
    – Organization of five hackathons in 2023.

North Macedonia, Jana Prodanova, Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts

  • Structured database of more than 100 teachers continuously participating in ‘anchor’ activities
  • Open dialogue workshop ‘Where is the future of education? STEM education, gender equality and green innovations in vocational education and trainings
  • Awareness raising, through the results, about STEM education contribution to significant entrepreneurial activity and to students’ readiness for undertaking new employments
  • Support through the annual competition Best Business Concept – identification of actual problem, idea for solution, research, further development of ideas
  • Activity in progress: Survey for exploring students’ opinion of the science education situation and necessities in the system

Serbia, Smilja Krajinovic, Vojvodina ICT Cluster

  • Education as the one of the pillars of the VOICT activities
  • Organizing IT training courses for women
  • IT training for children – VOICT organized courses for several hundred children from 6 to 15 years old and achieved significant media visibility of achieved results

Mutual Learning and Open Dialogue workshop with students and professors on their perspectives on RRI and STE(A)M, facilitated by Dalibor Drljaca, HRTD Cluster

  • Workshop was focused on how to make lectures in STE(A)M disciplines more interesting and engaging and how to engage and support more female students in STEM?
  • Participants were divided into groups, discussing and developing the ideas to address the topics above, and provide their own set of recommendations that were presented to all participants and discussed.
  • Workshop resulted in set of recommendations for more inclusive and improved STE(A)M education.

The Day 1 was concluded by the hybrid cross-WG meeting of working groups focusing on gender and ethics (WG1) and science education and public engagement (WG2).


Awards ceremony for the winners of the ‘Innovative ideas for a better quality of life’ Ideathon

  • Three winning teams presenting three secondary schools from Republic of Srpska received valuable awards provided by the University of Banja Luka thanks to the financial support from the Ministry for Scientific and Technological Development, Higher Education and Information Society of the Republic of Srpska.
  • In addition, the UNDP in BiH invited all three teams to a large STEM event to be held in Sarajevo in June 2023 with full costs of participation covered.
  • Apart from the awards to the teams and their mentors, significant contribution was provided also by socially responsible companies Nelt LTD Istocno Sarajevo and Page LTD Istocno Sarajevo, who have provided valuable equipment for schools.

Read more here: Student Awards Ceremony: IDEATHON ‘Innovative ideas for a better quality of life’ .

Presentation of secondary schools/first-year university students related to RRI and STE(A)M

  • Students from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republic of Srpska), Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia presented their innovative ideas and works to their peers and the wider public.
  • The presented ideas ranged from architectural design concepts and solar park design solutions, through innovative clothing design for minimising fabric waste and reducing carbon footprint, bio-waste management solutions, ecological antivarroa hive (ECO HIVE), to 3D-printed plastic rocket, and an app for reporting domestic and peer violence.   

Mutual Learning and Open Dialogue ‘Knowledge Cafe’: Breaking Barriers and Harvesting Opportunities in STEM education, facilitated by Kelly Pasmatzi, SEERC

  • ‘Knowledge Café’ with students, professors and other participants on breaking barriers and harvesting the opportunities in STEM education focused on the following topics:
    • Engaging women in STEM education
    • Addressing Barriers to effective STEM education
    • Identifying and amplifying opportunities in STEM education
  • The participants were divided into three groups: one discussing the gender and STEM education and professions identified issues, the other discussing opportunities in STEM education and the third discussing the challenges in STEM education. 
  • As the outputs of the discussions and brainstorming on mentioned topics, participants co-created knowledge and solutions that can feed into possible policy recommendations.

This article was prepared by Milica Maric (UNIBL) and Andjela Pepic (UNIBL).