In May, Maglaj was the venue for, as many call it, an unofficial state competition in informatics. The 9th IT Challenge (ITC) brought together nearly 300 young IT professionals and their mentors from 20 Bosnia and Herzegovina. cities. The organizer was the Mostar company NSoft, which also has its office in Maglaj, in cooperation with the “Edhem Mulabdić” Gymnasium and the Municipality of Maglaj. When the IT Challenge was born in 2014, the IT area and Maglaj were very far from each other. Through the years that passed, the awareness of the strengthening of IT grew, so this city began to get smaller IT companies that over time began to strengthen and employ an increasing number of people, primarily young people.

After the realization of the project IT HUB Maglaj by SPARK, which worked on the education of young programmers in Maglaj, one of our largest IT companies – NSoft from Mostar decides to make a strategic move and open its office in Maglaj. 10 young programmers were immediately hired and became part of a large family that today numbers around 300 engineers from various fields of IT technologies. The organization of the IT Challenge was taken over by the employees of Nsoft in Maglaj, and what they did while they were students of the “Edhem Mulabdić” Gymnasium, where the story of the IT Challenge began in 2014, primarily as a school project.

A warm welcome and Bosnian table better than Swedish

ITC participants were welcomed by sun-bathed Maglaj, organizers, volunteers with the famous Maglaj welcome, as well as members of the informal group “Fontana” Old Town Maglaj with Bosnian specialties. “Our women prepared all this with a lot of love, and we can see that the children also like it,” said Merima Islamović with pleasure. Young people found the specialties much tastier than ‘fast food’. “It’s my first time in Maglaj and at the competition. The impressions are fantastic, and this Bosnian table is better than the Swedish one,” Rasim Hermić from Banović told us. “We came with great ambitions, the first prize is really attractive and worth the effort,” added Kenan Muhamedbegović from Tuzla.

IT Challenge 2024 opened in a spectacular way

Since 2014, when the first competition was organized in the “Edhem Mulabdić” Gymnasium, until today, new contents have been introduced, the number of participants has grown and the prizes have been more and more attractive. The municipality of Maglaj classified ITC as a project of importance and essential for the development of the local community itself. Mirsad Mahmutagić, the mayor of the municipality, addressed the participants in a video message. “We are proud to be part of this event. Until next year, we will work to make the biggest step forward when it comes to the organization of the IT Challenge,” announced Mahmutagić. The competition was fully supported by numerous local companies, as well as the company Natron-Hayat, an exporter in 40 countries around the world. “We want to strengthen the image of a socially responsible company in Maglaj, we are partners with schools, NGOs, sports teams and other institutions, including this competition,” said Sejo Mulalić, executive director of sales. Gymnasium “Edhem Mulabdić” is one of the co-organizers of the competition. “The main culprit and creator of the idea of ​​ITC is our former student and colleague-professor – Saša Stanić, who constantly came with new ideas, great desire and enthusiasm to make ITC what it is today,” recalled Maida Hadžizulfić, director of the Gymnasium. The competition was officially opened by Ana Sović, the director of business operations of the NSoft company, who thanked everyone who helped organize the 9th ITC, while Nedžad Lokmić, the federal minister for veterans’ affairs, pointed out that he will do his best to ensure that this project is recognized and from the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “We wish that the 10th anniversary ITC would be the result of the work of an independent organization that would independently, but still with the help of sponsors, organize a ‘new generation’ competition. And that implies a larger prize fund, a larger number of participants – computer science students, but also participants from the countries of the region”, announced Šahzudin Mahmić, Integration team leader at the NSoft office in Maglaj. The opening ceremony was completed by the performance of the group “Albatros” consisting of Tarik Šehović, Melisa Mahmutagić and Vedad Mujanović.

NSoft team Maglaj – a team for success

In charge of the organization of ITC 2024 were the young developers of NSoft in Maglaj: Benjamin Brkić, Mirza Ramović, Ivona Dunđer, Admir Velić and Šahzudin Mahmić, team leader of Integration. Of course, they had great support from the company’s headquarters in Mostar, but also from their former professor and now colleague, M.Sc. Saša Stanić. He again conveyed to them his enthusiasm that they should give something good to the city where they live and work. Šahzudin Mahmić admitted to us that during the whole day he had only one thought in his head – that everyone from Maglaj should leave satisfied. “Looking at the history of the competition, it is evident that the competition is dominated by students from Tuzla, kudos to the school and the teachers, and this is a sign to us that we know where to look for workforce,” Mahmić stressed. “What makes us especially happy is the knowledge shown by the ITC participants, because last year and this year the questions were prepared by NSoft developers. I hope that next year we will digitize the entire competition, and not just the finals like this year. I am especially glad, as a woman in the IT world, that this year we have the most teams made up of girls, even complete female teams”, Ana Sovic from NSoft told us.

Among the three best teams, two from Tuzla

The 10 best teams made it to the finals, five of which were from Tuzla. The finalists answered the questions using the Kahoot application, which made the ITC final particularly interesting. The first place was won by the team PETLJANCI – Ibrahim Ibrišimović, Eldin Feukić and Nađa Ibeljić from the Electrical Engineering School Tuzla, and last year this team was sixth. “IT is our love and we have shown our knowledge here. We are very satisfied with the success”, Ibrahim told us. The second was the TROJNI C team from “28.juni” High School East Novo Sarajevo – Sergej Ristić, Luka Gligorić and Ana Puhalo. “We are glad that we were able to show our knowledge and win a prize,” said Sergej. The OFFSET team – Ahmet Mahmutagić, Adin Softić and Davud Đerzić, also from the Tuzla School of Electrical Engineering, finished the competition in third place. “The atmosphere and organization were at the highest level, all praise,” Davud added. In addition to diplomas for participation, the three best teams received cash prizes of 2,000, 1,000 and 500 KM, the winners of 4th and 5th place were awarded with 250 KM each, and from 6th to 10th place with 100 KM each. How much everyone liked the organization  of the 9th IT  Challenge and everything that followed this competition was best told by the young IT professionals from Živinice – “We are coming next year!”.

A series of contents organized for mentors of contestants

While the competition was going on, a gathering in Čabra’s tavern, lunch, a tour of the Old Town and a visit to the museum exhibition in Uzeir Bey’s residence were organized for the professors. Šeherzada Delić, a teacher of the Bosnian language at the Bihać high school, brought the students to Maglaj instead of a colleague who was unable to do so. “The organization is fantastic and I am glad that our students come regularly. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs these young people with their knowledge. “As a professor of literature, I was looking for scenes from Mulabdić’s ‘Green Awakening’ in Maglaj,” said prof. A fraction. Harun Obralić, professor of informatics at STŠ Zavidovići, has been bringing students to ITC since the first year, and this year four teams participated. “The progress is noticeable, every year something new, different, and that’s the charm of this competition – we never know what awaits us.” The novelties that are announced will be a challenge for the organizer,” added prof. Obralić. And while waiting for the results, a competition in assembling LEGO bricks was also organized. Among the competitors, the best were Bakir Širbegović from Tešnj and Harun Šabanović from Banović, and among the female competitors Iman Mirojević from Bugojno and Nadja Fejzić from Tuzla.

A word from the volunteer

A great contribution to the organization of the 9th ITC was made by 25 volunteers, male and female students of the “Edhem Mulabdić” Gymnasium.

Ela Lokmić: “I think the organization is much better this year than last year, although slightly fewer teams are participating. I am pleased that I could be a part of the IT Challenge”.

Irna Nalić: “As we are high school graduates, we are glad that our volunteer career ends in this way. I hope that next year we will be able to follow the 10th ITC and the announced novelties from the sidelines.”

Aida Hadžić: “I had a wonderful time both last year and this year. Fun above all, and we all tried to be good hosts to our guests”.

Written by: Nejra Bradarić

This story was written thanks to the generous support of the American people through the “Local Works” program of the United States Agency for International Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina (USAID). The content of the story is solely the responsibility of the author and the “Network for Building Peace”. The views expressed in the story do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.