Who’s behind STEM Games Safe Mode competition tasks?


With a new concept come new challenges. Who are Tedi Fućak and Vedran Stipetić and what was their inspiration for this year’s competition tasks? Find out in our blog!


  • Tell us a few words about yourselves! What do you do and what’s the story of you and the Games?


    • VEDRAN: My name is Vedran Stipetić and I am currently working on my doctoral thesis at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the Faculty of Science and obtained my master’s degree in applied mathematics from the Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen. Years of experience in maths competitions are behind me, however, during my college years, I realised I was drawn more and more to applied mathematics. That’s how I got involved with the Games.
    • TEDI: I’m Tedi Fućak. With a title of mr.sc. in medical biotechnology, I do PCR analyses of SARS-CoV-2 and analyses of biological data at the Clinical Hospital Centre Rijeka. I took part in STEM Games in 2018 and 2019. My team won the first prize competing in the Science Arena in 2019. As I was really fascinated with STEM Games and how they encourage creativity, meeting new people and combine fun and learning, I decided to join the team of mentors. This way I would like to spread the good spirit on to the new generations.
fotka Tedi Science


  • Where did you find inspiration for this year’s competition tasks?


    • VEDRAN: I was mostly inspired by the problems I started to think about during the pandemics. How to model society and distancing? How to estimate the effects of vaccination on the spreading of the disease? I wanted these questions to be reflected in the Games tasks.
    • TEDI: We get inspired by what we encounter at our jobs every day. We would like for the participants to see the importance of creative thinking in meeting the challenges of their professions.



  • What obstacles have you encountered as the result of the pandemics? How have you adapted to them? Has the situation motivated you to come up with the tasks?


    • VEDRAN: As I primarily work on the computer - write programs or read articles - the situation has not influenced my work to a great extent, except that I changed my office with my living room. The biggest obstacle in working at home was that my colleagues are not around and I can’t talk to them, discuss ideas. That was partly overcome with Zoom meetings, but nothing can beat live contact. Apart from that, a large obstacle I had to overcome was reading the news on coronavirus obsessively, I had to stop doing that. The long hours of exploring epidemiology, virology and other disciplines I’m not familiar with motivated me to try to emphasise the importance of interdisciplinarity in the STEM Games tasks.
    • TEDI: We were stuck thinking inside the box even when it comes to the Games themselves, due to not being able to organise everything, meet in person and have team buildings, but, at the same time, that motivated us to think outside the box and that’s how we’ve adapted to working online.



  • What has changed, in terms of tasks? What can the participants expect from the online edition?


    • VEDRAN: There are two major changes when it comes to tasks. One of them is that there is one interdisciplinary arena with tasks from all STEM fields; no separate arena for each field, as in the previous years. The other major difference is that the tasks will be evaluated automatically on the server and the results will be readily accessible.
    • TEDI: The participants can expect to solve real life problems that occur at work in particular professions and which require practical use of knowledge and experience obtained while at school.



  • What do you expect from the participants?


    • VEDRAN: We expect teamwork, which might be a challenge this year, since many of the participants will have to cooperate online. I hope they will learn the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, which I find extremely valuable. And, of course, we expect them to do excellent 🙂
    • TEDI: Long story short, we expect motivation, fair play, teamwork, and creativity. 



  • How do you feel about the online edition? Does it affect the students’ motivation?


    • VEDRAN: I think that the aspect of socialisation at the Games is definitely missing and it is a pity that we can’t organise the Games live. I can imagine that people are less motivated because the most fun part of the competition won’t take place, but I am also convinced that many of them will find the will to apply. I sure hope the tasks we’ve prepared are interesting and challenging enough.
    • TEDI: Everyone knows that nothing can replace the Games in live edition. However, the online edition is supposed to remind us of the juncture of fun and learning at the Games, as well as introduce new participants to STEM Games and keep the tradition alive, popular, and recognisable.
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  • What makes the tasks from the Games different from the typical tasks found in college exams?


    • VEDRAN: The tasks are designed to test not factual, but practical knowledge. The participants can use all resources in solving the problems, so having it all in your head is not of great importance. What is crucial is being able to find and use information to solve a problem.
    • TEDI: Exactly. The tasks are based on understanding concepts, not on the mere familiarity with the facts. They are designed to resemble real life problems and challenges that one can encounter at work in different professions. The answers with the most creative and applicable solutions will get the highest score.



  • How would you describe a “real” STEM Games task and how do students react to the creative, thinking-outside-the-box concept of the competition?


    • VEDRAN: A real task is the one which doesn’t require an exact revision of what is taught at school, but the one that requires considering the big picture in order to come up with the solution on your own. I’m especially fond of tasks whose solutions turn out long and complex for the ones who don’t think carefully enough and short and simple for those who do. Students’ reactions are evident in the number of applications each consecutive year.
    • TEDI: A real STEM Games task presents a real challenge that can be overcome by creative thinking and using the experience obtained at school. The reactions on the thinking-outside-the-box concept are positive, as everyone likes being able to have their full freedom in working on the problems, as well as in sharing their own ideas and concepts. Therefore, the “ideal” STEM Games team should be competent, multidisciplinary, resourceful, should think creatively and critically, and collaborate. My favourite thing is the feeling of excitement during the competition and encountering new challenges every day, meeting new people, hanging out with my colleagues, and exchanging knowledge and experiences.



  • What message would you send to the new strengths of STEM Games to motivate them to apply?


    • VEDRAN: I think this is a great opportunity to see how well you can manage in your fields, not how well prepared you are for your exams. Anyone who is truly interested in their field will love the new ideas and concepts that can be discovered during the competition.
    • TEDI: It’s going to be challenging, you’re going to love it and you’re going to be glad that you were a part of it. You’re going to be sorry when it ends, because you’ll feel like you’ve expanded the area of your comfort zone in terms of knowledge, experience, and your circle of friends.