It’s been five years since my initial recognition at the Zasavje Innovations Awards. They say you never forget your first innovation, but the subsequent six are equally significant and have become an integral part of my career/life. If I were to define the key words of my seven innovations, they would be: artificial intelligence, innovative learning environments, family tree, and painting with thoughts.
It all started with my first (and so far only) permanent job back in 2013. I vividly remember the first job interview that marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with Principal Marjetka Bizjak, and by extension, the school. I am filled with joy and honor knowing that the school offers me ample room to grow, and that the students are eager to work on projects, enabling my ideas to spring to life.
2015 – The Web Learning Environment tRSiCA (Silver Award). As I mentioned at the outset, 2015 was a watershed year as I received my first (silver) recognition at the Zasavje Innovations. It was a moment of profound pride, doubly so because the co-author of the innovation was my student, Amon Stopinšek. Particularly rewarding was the fact that we managed to craft an innovation rooted in artificial intelligence – yes, I was introducing AI content even then. True, it was a student project, but it required considerable courage. After all, students, in the throes of adolescence, are sensitive to failure, and such a setback could have scarred their life trajectory – but failure was not on the cards.
2016 – The TRiii Conference (Bronze Award). This conference was birthed from a casual conversation with the headmistress. We often have meetings/discussions and suddenly there’s a ‘level up’, the creative juices start flowing. An intense brainstorming session. Many a successful brain wave we’ve had has come to fruition. The TRiii Conference has seen five successful runs – next calendar year, we will be conducting the sixth one in a row.
2017 – PRST Personality Pattern (Golden Award). Not the first innovation, but indeed golden. I’m particularly proud of this one, not only because it received a golden accolade, but also because it was endorsed (by ZRSŠ) as having reached the highest (5th) level of innovation in the field of education. We still use the application at our school (for a full 7 years – from the early beginnings). Students are still amazed today at how the application can identify their personal, learning, and cognitive styles using AI.
2019 – VR-web textbook on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Silver Award). This innovation was the result of a splendid collaboration between our school (STPŠ Trbovlje – students Žan Juvan and Timotej Robavs participated, as well as (then employed at our school) Suzana Mikelj) and Zagorje High School (student Aljana Smajlović and teachers Stana Kovač Hace and Jožica Jelen Jurič). We merged knowledge from the fields of medicine and computer science, leading to the creation of the first web textbook based on virtual reality. In addition to a silver award at Zasavje Innovations, the innovation also received a silver accolade at the Meeting of Young Slovenian Researchers 2018.
2019 – The Family Tree of the Municipality of Zagorje ob Savi (Silver Award, in collaboration with Nada Brezovar and Andrej Klembas). My beginnings in genealogy turned my life upside down. Not only did I co-author the first (web-based) municipal tree in Slovenia, but through genealogy, I found numerous relatives and uncovered/learned many family stories. To date, I’ve documented over 7200 relatives – indeed, one big extended family. I write more about this in the article titled ‘Who Am I Related to?
2020 – Introduction of Artificial Intelligence in High School Education (Silver Award). My journey with AI started in 2010 when I enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science, University of Ljubljana. As early as my second year at STPŠ Trbovlje, I started working on the tRSiCa application/innovation. Around the same time, I also developed a prototype for the PRST patterns innovation. This work later led to the formation of a specialized module called ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’, which I’ve been teaching for three academic years now at STPŠ Trbovlje. At this point, we remain the first and only school introducing these concepts to students. You might recall when I wrote about the successful prediction of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest winner.
2020 – BCI Painter: Painting with Thoughts (Golden Award, selection for national competition). This innovation, co-authored with students Matic Bernot and Jon Tavčar, and researcher Dr. Maša Jazbec, has undoubtedly left its mark on me and introduced me to a new circle of people. September 2019 was a pivotal month when we connected the BCI interface with the Yaskawa arm – something utterly new and different. Less than two months had passed, and we already had a prototype of the painter, which we happily showcased. Now the application is part of permanent exhibitions in various institutions and laboratories. It has already been presented at the ARS Electronica festival in Linz and will soon be showcased at the Speculum Artium festival.