Croatian Makers

The largest STEM program in the EU

 

This page contains only a short summary in English of our activities. For more info please follow the links to our Croatian page and use Google translate.

 

IRIM

IRIM (Institute for Youth Development and Innovativity) is a Croatia-based non-profit organization (private foundation), which has developed and implements the largest extracurricular STEM program in EU – the Croatian Makers movement, encompassing now over 150,000 children in Croatia. Although IRIM originates from, and primarily operates in, Croatia, it has transposed its activities to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, where IRIM and local partners deliver IRIM-designed major projects (with initial funding from IRIM), reaching tens of thousands more children. Some programs are joint regional activities. Such cross-border co-operation is of utmost significance in the region which still suffers consequences stemming from the conflicts in the 1990s.

IRIM donates a large amount of equipment, but only as a foundation for wide and deep knowledge distribution using that equipment, through organized activities, teacher education (more than 3,000 teachers educated only in Croatia), content development etc.

The initial and still the core financing comes from local philanthropists, the Bakić family, but due to developing size and scope of its activities it has lately been attracting additional financing from external sources, including citizens (through public crowdfunding campaigns and general donations), companies, national and EU development funds. At the moment, IRIM employs 10 people, but has developed a strong ecosystem of educators ('ambassadors') and rich content platforms, enabling it to leverage its activities.

 

IRIM’s mission

IRIM’s core mission is to empower all children in Croatia and the region to develop STEM competencies necessary for them to be equal citizens of 21st century, by providing not only equipment, but also education and other activities.

The educational systems in Croatia and the neighboring region are undergoing reforms, but currently they cannot deliver well neither in STEM fields nor in developing key competences such as collaboration, communication and learning skills, creativity, curiosity, persistence and leadership. IRIM’s activities are not only naturally inductive for developing those competencies, but are also on purpose geared towards them. A nice illustration is an excerpt from a prime-time feature on the national TV about Croatian Makers in Dvor, one of the least developed towns in Croatia, you can watch it here (turn on subtitles in English).

Additionally, according to relevant research by Eurostat, the citizens of Croatia have the lowest estimate in the EU of the importance of education and hard work as key elements for success, and the highest estimate for political connections and luck. It is similar in the Western Balkans countries where IRIM’s designed activities are deployed by local partners. Hence, IRIM’s main social mission is creating a culture of success, aiming at strengthening meritocracy as the central pillar and main driver in society.

 

The central player in the educational ecosystem, with a strong capacity for co-operation

IRIM’s strong capacity for partnerships and a wide national/public support adds significantly to its success. For example, a project called STEM Revolution was primarily financed by the largest-ever crowdfunding campaign in Croatia, topping over 300,000 USD donated by more than 2,500 individuals and organizations. More than 25,000 coding devices were delivered to more than 1,000 educational institutions including schools, universities, NGOs, orphanages etc., together with extensive teach-the-teacher workshops and developing content.

Following STEM Revolution’s unique success, IRIM partnered with the Ministry of Science and Education in introducing coding to Croatian schools, delivering coding devices micro:bit to all Grade 6 pupils, developing cross-subject content, and educating over 2,000 teachers. Other significant partners in the project include Croatian Employers Association, Rotary clubs, and a number of corporations like Croatian Telecom, Croatian Post, Tele2, INA – Croatian national oil company, etc. Additionally IRIM has successfully applied to a number of national and EU grants.

IRIM’s unique approach is combining grassroots (movement) with institutionalization. Its strength is developed from the ground up, teachers and children voluntarily joining the movement, but it always strives to institutionalize, getting educational and other institutions on board, thus avoiding friction and using institutional leverage.

Croatian Makers movement due to its size and intensity has a great impact not only on schools and other educational institutions and the school system, but the society as a whole. IRIM’s focus in on equality of opportunities and for this purpose IRIM has developed a family of platforms, ranging from most democratic to more complex projects like the robotics league, advanced coding competitions and other advanced projects. A good example of those complex projects is a massive IoT collaborative project which includes 100 schools, engaging in simultaneous measurements of 7 ecological variables and presenting them at a public website in real time. The ability to recruit such a large number of partners for such an advanced project demonstrates the size and depth of the movement and its capacity to devise and manage complex projects.

A visualization of IRIM's family of platforms:

 

 

 

 

IRIM’s projects / family of platforms

 

1.STEM revolutionProMikro - The most democratic of IRIM’s projects was introducing coding to the Croatian educational system and communities at an unprecedented level using a physical-computing controller micro:bit. Previously, there was no coding in Croatian schools, apart from an occasional elective subject.

This project has been implemented in two steps. The first was ‘STEM revolution’, primarily funded by the most successful crowdfunding campaign ever in Croatia and IRIM's own resources. It brought 25,000 coding devices to more than 1,000 institutions in Croatia (elementary and secondary schools, universities, libraries, orphanages …) together with developing the complementary curriculum and teaching the teachers. The second step was ProMikro. IRIM teamed up with the Ministry of Science and Education which funded 45,000 micro:bits for all the Grade 6 children in Croatian schools, thus effectively introducing coding to elementary schools. The schools opted in voluntarily, and 85% of them chose to join the project. In such a manner coding was effectively introduced to Croatian elementary schools.

Teaching the teachers was the key element of the projects. Following a large-scale education effort in STEM Revolution, in ProMikro IRIM delivered more than 500 workshops in 3 waves for 2,000 teachers, out of whom the majority never, or rarely, coded before. The workshops were executed by a network of 30 technology ambassadors IRIM developed from its ecosystem, and workshops were financed by the Croatian Employers’ Association. IRIM developed an extensive set of cross-subject lessons comprising of more than 60 teaching lessons ready to be taught in class.

 

2.Croatian Makers Robotics League is IRIM’s flagship project in robotics, the largest competition of such kind in the EU with more than 12,000 children included per school year in more than 600 schools and non-profits, whereas IRIM has donated more than 3,000 robots. The educational institutions participate regularly, in 4-5 rounds during the schools year, and locally, so that the subject can be integrated into the curriculum, and not be (as is usual with robotics competition) a one-off.

The successful concept of the Robotics League has since been successfully implemented in Serbia, BiH and Kosovo by local partners (with IRIM’s initial donations), and the one in Serbia now includes almost 500 schools, and has been mostly financed by the Serbian government, and is the largest STEM project in Serbian schools.

It important to emphasize that the Robotic League is using the same robotics platform (mBot by Makeblock) in all participating countries, which ensures full compatibility and interoperability of activities at a regional level.

 

3.The MakeX advanced robotics competition utilizes the Makeblock advanced robotics kits with participants being the best regional teams from the leagues mentioned above. MakeX is the leading regional competition in educational robotics. Since 2018 IRIM has been a partner of MakeX for the implementation of the European Open competition and is in discussions to use IRIM’ 'league' concept globally.

 

4.STEM car, a ‘modern era moving library’, bringing free coding and robotics classes to less developed communities. STEM car is a recurrent ongoing project (in 2018. there were 6 cross-country tours lasting 2-4 weeks) and has already visited hundreds of villages and towns, with hundreds of workshops for thousands of kids, introducing them to the world of technology and inducing them into other IRIM’s activities.

 

5.Izradi! IRIM uses several channels of knowledge distribution, among which the primary one is its content platform Izradi!

 

6.STEM Revolution continues - Libraries, especially worthy to be of note, IRIM aims to empower public libraries to become centers for developing digital competencies in local communities. It is equivalent to e.g. Singapore’s national Digital Maker program aiming to transform the nation introducing technology to schools and families (using primarily the micro:bit, just like IRIM). Within the project, IRIM donated:

 

  • to 100 public libraries in Croatia coding devices micro:bits for free workshops and to be borrowed by the public
  • 3D printers to 10 libraries and to the National and University Library

Consequently, libraries are transformed into public learning spaces for new technologies, and also as digital innovation centers.

 

7.Advanced IoT in Croatian schools, technologically most advanced project up to now for the whole Croatian Makers ecosystem has been financed primarily by Croatian Telecom, which has been the largest outside donor, IRIM winning 2 of its major grants.

Using advanced Arduino technology, 100 educational institutions – schools, NGOs, orphanages – simultaneously measured and publicly displayed 7 ecological variables, including micro-particles. That final demonstration was preceded by two calls for creative projects in using IoT related to smart homes and pets and domestic animals. IRIM is continuing its cooperation with Croatian Telecom and this year it’s introducing IoT into 110 new educational institutions including elementary schools and high schools.

 

8.Digital citizen: Regional project of transforming public libraries into digital making spaces in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo With the help of 250,000 USD grant from Google, IRIM grew its reach from 100 libraries to 120 in Croatia, where it introduced free coding and micro:bits to borrow, and developed some of them into digital making spaces, at the same time developing them into maker spaces with 3D printers and maker sets, and also expanding its reach to 70 libraries in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and on Kosovo, with the help from local partners.

Digital Citizen will further develop existing libraries to advanced digital competencies centers, and include new libraries in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo to become centers for developing digital competencies for: (a) children not already reached with the Croatian Makers program in Croatia, and the equivalent partner programs in the region and (b) adults, to make them better equipped for today’s labor market and help them overcome aversion towards new technologies.

The project will reach 120 libraries in Croatia already induced into digital technologies, donating additional makers equipment compatible with already deployed micro:bit controllers, thus building on existing foundations to make them much more relevant digital technology centers, and inducing 70 more libraries in the region to coding and digital making, among which 25 will be supplied also with 3D printers, including ‘teach the librarian’ and other forms of knowledge transfer.

 

9.STEM Revolution – Grades 1 - 4. IRIM is teaming up with Rotary District 1913 (Croatia) and its clubs to introduce coding to Grades 1- 4 in Croatian elementary schools. The deployment will be made through school libraries. Micro:bits will be donated to schools opting to participate in the project, and the coding will be taught cross-subject (using micro:bits and coding within existing curriculum in particular subjects as a tool). The pilot in 58 schools in 3 Eastern Slavonia's counties is already under way, and the nation-wide deployment is planned for the school year 2019-20.

 

10.Junior Engineering Academy is a vocational education project developed in Germany by Deutsche Telekom Stiftung (DTS) and Croatia is the first country outside of Germany where it is implemented. The project is financed primarily by DTS and its goal is to transform 15 secondary schools into STEM centers of excellence, and integrate them into the local business environment and connect them to universities.

 

11.Digital Libraries for Local Development focuses on STEM areas, while at the same time developing competencies such as problem solving, algorithmic thinking, critical thinking, collaboration skills, communication and creativity. The project seeks to empower children and adults to become active citizens and creators of knowledge and sustainable development in local communities in Croatia and Switzerland through the acquisition of STEM knowledge and digital competencies. This project will be a good model for others as it initiates a co-operation between Croatian and Swiss librarians.

12.Projects funded by the EU. IRIM is the leading partner or partner in several projects co-financed by the European Union.

Below is a list of some of them, with general information and links to more detail pages.

STEM Revolution in the Community – the project deals with solving the problem of insufficient cooperation between civil society organizations (CSO's) and high education institutions in involving students in community problem solving, i.e. the underdevelopment of the community service learning model.

Croatian Makers Plus – for gifted Children – the project aims to develop an individualized work program with gifted student in the STEM area. It strives to achieve it within the education system by developing a methodology for recognizing gifted students.

The Art of Using Information – the goal of the project is to improve the information literacy of the students of the Klinča Sela Elementary School and the district schools in Repušić and Kupinec.

Slavonian STEM Evolution – the project deals with solving the problems of insufficient cooperation between civil society organization (CSO's) and high education institutions.