Nikola, who didn’t even have a smartphone until recently, doesn’t care about superficial values, he works hard every day teaching others, discovering new solutions for his gadgets and preparing the final version of a robot that will, hopefully, be ready for the market in 2017.
Nikola, you are only 23 and you already have six patented inventions. Apart from that, you teach at the Informatics High School. Tell us more about what you do and what your first invention was?
I have, actually, created lot of gadgets, but six of them are official and have been patented. My first invention came into focus while I was attending an art class, nine years ago, when I was in high school. We had been making figures out of plaster with knives that were designed especially for that. Of course, I had no experience doing this, so I got several serious cuts. Later, when I thought about it, I realized that the job could be done much more easily. That’s how I got the idea for my first invention – a gadget called “electric device for woodcutting with changeable tools”. After that one, came others like “electric chisel”, “a robot for street cleaning”, “a machine that washes vegetables and fruits”, “a robot that sprays toxic chemicals”, I can’t even remember any others right now, because there have been so many.
Who was the first to notice all of your talents, and who supported you the most during your school days?
My parents were the first people who noticed my talents, of course – there wasn’t a single thing in the house that I didn’t take apart and redesign. When it comes to school, I have to point out prof. Dusan Ristic, the owner of the private „Informatics High School“, who made it possible for me to get a scholarship.
Where do you find parts for your gadgets?
Literally everywhere: shops, old devices… I even make some on my own.
Having in mind that you are a real innovator, and that you create things few people are able to conceive, how do you manage to put together all the pieces of your inventions in order for them to function flawlessly?
You should think about it like this: You run into a problem, you have certain parts that you need and you figure out exactly what those parts can help you with, you put them together and that’s how you design something new. You should try to make your solution as simple as possible, because if you don’t do that – it means you haven’t finished your job.
Which one was the most complicated invention (regarding time and putting pieces together)?
Hmmm, I would say the newest version of the robot for spraying was definitely the most difficult to make, because of all the different things that this invention can do. It is a complicated invention, because it can’t get more simple than it is.
Among your six patented inventions, one of the most interesting ones is a robot that can be very useful in the future in the agriculture sector. Can you tell us more about the latest version of this gadget?
Of course. I got the inspiration for the newest version of this robot from observing rovers for space research on the NASA website. The robot even looks like a rover, but instead of drilling rocks and taking samples, it sprays fruits and vegetables with chemicals and also has the ability to check the PH value of the soil, spreads fertilizer, and also has aggregates installed in itself. You manage the robot with a remote that’s connected to the computer, or if the path is simple the robot can do it automatically – on its own.
Are the steps from inventing a gadget to offering it to customers daunting? Are you thinking about the business part of your job, too, and will we be able to buy some of the things you have invented soon?
It’s not complicated if I know what the problem is and what caused the problem. I can come up with a solution very fast and get the material I need. But, sometimes, there can be difficulties with finding the right material. For example: The robot I’m working on is not an easy job, because I can’t seem to find the appropriate engine that it requires. But, in situations like this, I always try to find a different solution, a replacement for the part I can’t find. I have to say that the solution always appears. I do think about how I can sell what I create, of course. There was a moment in my life when I realized I had to start making a living. I also realized that inventing things and not being able to make them useful to people and spread the ideas they represent would be useless. That’s why I enrolled in a college that can teach me how to sell what I make – the Faculty of Management. I finished it by the Bologna method, and I can say that I learned a lot. I’m preparing the latest version of the previously mentioned robot for sale. I will try to sell it as a final product in 2017.
You have said many times so far, many people think what you do is not that profitable and you have not had adequate support over the last few years. You even rejected an offer from Russia to continue your education there. Why do you choose to stay in the country that doesn’t sufficiently support the gift you have?
The situation in this country is difficult, but I think Serbia is very beautiful. I ride through many different places on my bike every year, so I’m able to see the beautiful places this country has. I adore Serbia. You should know that I’m not interested in politics at all, and since I think I will always be able to earn money for my work, I have no reason to leave this country. But, have you ever wondered why the situation here isn’t very good? It’s because people leave and expect others to solve their problems for them. I think people are running away, and I don’t want to run away, too. I’m fighting, and it’s working for me. I’m inspiring young people to try and do something with their lives. For example: A free music school has been opened in Nis, boys who are younger than I am did that, and there are many, many other things happening. Maybe it looks in vain, but I will do the best I can to make things around me better. Although, I won’t try to change the whole world. Many young people come up to me to ask for advice. I like helping them and working with them on new things, because I think they will make this country better. Our state authorities won’t do that – only a new generation will. You can’t heal the plant through the rotten stem, you have to heal the roots.
You teach children in the Informatics High School in Sremski Karlovci. What is your work with them based on?
I’m a high school professor in informatics. I teach my students everything they should know, but most importantly – how to spot a problem and where to look for the solution. You can’t learn the solutions by heart, you have to learn how to get to them.
Until recently you didn’t even have a smartphone. Do you have one now, and what is your opinion about the addiction people have to this gadget?
Well, I do have a smartphone now, but I use it for e-mail only. The battery doesn’t last very long, it’s very delicate along with other things that are bothering me. I really don’t care if it is a smartphone or PC or whatever. People have to realize that it’s a tool, nothing else. But, people are using it wrong. They give themselves to the tool, more than the tool gives itself to them. I don’t think people are aware of the fact that they are carrying a device that has a very powerful computer strength, similar to a satellite. They shouldn’t just use it for playing games or whatever. Many people pay a lot of money for a phone, because following trends is more important to them, than the way the phone works. But, I think that’s just human nature.
Do you have a hobby? What do you do when you don’t teach or invent?
Yes, I have my own bike and bicycle service, so I love repairing old bicycles. I love riding a bicycle too, it relaxes me to look at the beauties of the different parts of Serbia. Sometimes I ride for more than 25 kilometers from Zabalj to Novi Sad. I also make hand-made flower decorations for different flower shops.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
As a man of 33, running his own successful business for the production and sale of high-tech equipment for agriculture.