Future Problem Solving Program International

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Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI), formerly known as the Future Problem Solving Program (FPSP), aims to "engage students in creative problem solving". Founded by Dr. Ellis Paul Torrance in 1974, FPSPI was created to stimulate critical and creative thinking skills and to encourage students to develop a vision for the future. FPSPI features curricular and co-curricular competitive, as well as non-competitive, activities in creative problem solving. The Future Problem Solving Program International involves over 250,000 students annually from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Portugal, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Great Britain, Turkey, India and the United States.

Future Problem Solving Process[edit]

The Future Problem Solving (FPS) Process is used in all competitions except the Scenario Writing competitions. The six steps of the process are as follows:

  1. Finding Challenges/Problems: Find possible problems within the given Future Scene.
  2. Select an Underlying Problem: Determine the most important or consequential problem.
  3. Solutions: Brainstorm solutions to solve the Underlying Problem.
  4. Generate/Select Criteria: Write 5 criteria by which to judge the solutions.
  5. Apply Criteria to Solutions: Judge the solutions with the criteria, and determine which solution is the best overall.
  6. Action Plan: The highest-scoring (best) solution, as determined by the Grid, is elaborated into a detailed plan for the implementation of that solution.

Types of Competition[edit]

There are several different types of competition within the Future Problem Solving (FPS) program, the most popular of which is the Team Global Issues Problem Solving Competition.

Team Global Issues Problem Solving[edit]

Teams in this competition are composed of no more than 4 members. Each team can compete in one of the competition divisions. Teams compete by analyzing the provided Future Scene and completing their written "packet" or "booklet. The Future Scene is a one page written scenario in an imagined future based on the current topic. Competitors find potential problems in the future scene based on logic and their topic research preparation. Each packet contains space for 16 challenges, an underlying problem, 16 solutions, 5 criteria, an evaluation grid, and an action plan. Each team, regardless of the division, has two hours to complete these steps in the qualifying, state, and international competitions.

Each year there are two practice problems, one qualifying problem, an affiliate level competition, and an international competition. Depending on the size of the FPSPI affiliate in that state or nation, the top 1 to 3 teams from the affiliate level receive the opportunity to compete at the International Conference. The competitors at the international level represent the top 1% of teams from around the world.

Individual Global Issues Problem Solving[edit]

Individual competitions are similar to team competitions, except that only one competitor completes a packet. Individual competitors can complete a maximum of 8 problems and solutions per packet.

Individual competition levels are the same as team competition levels.

Alternate Global Issues Problem Solving[edit]

When a team is selected to go to the international competition (and some affiliate bowls) they are allowed to bring up to two alternate competitors in case members of the winning team are unable to compete. If the alternates are not needed, they may compete in the alternate competition. This is the same as the team competition except all teams of four are created with alternates from various affiliates who have not worked together before.

Presentation of Action Plan Competition[edit]

In some levels of competition, teams compete in Presentation of Action Plan competitions, whereby they act out a short play based on their Action Plan. Individuals and Alternates from the same school can help teams in their division (or a higher division) perform a skit. Whether or not a Presentation of Action Plan competition is held at the Qualifying Problem or Affiliate levels depends on the FPSPI affiliate. Presentations are always performed at the International Conference.

Adult Competition[edit]

The Adult competition is completed at the International level(and may be completed at the Affiliate level if the FPSPI affiliate chooses to do so) and is intended for adults who accompany students to the International Conference. Like Alternates, adult competitors are randomly assigned into teams in order to complete a packet.

Scenario Writing Competition[edit]

A Scenario is a short story set at least 20 years in the future. Scenarios must be under 1500 words and must be based on one of the year's competition topics. Unlike many other FPSPI competitions, Scenario Writing competitions are not timed. They are completed at the student's home or school and then mailed in for evaluation.

There are two levels of the Scenario Writing competition: the Affiliate Level and the International Conference. The first place Affiliate Level winner in each division is invited to the International Conference. The scenarios that win first, second, and third at the Affiliate Level will be sent on to the International level for evaluation.

If a scenario places within the top five at the International level, the writer will be invited to the IC if they have not already qualified for an invitation through other competitions.

Onsite Scenario Writing Competition[edit]

Competitors of the Scenario Writing competition who are invited to the International Conference can complete in the Onsite Scenario Writing competition. Competitors are randomly grouped into teams of four.

Each team member is given a copy of the same Future Scene used in the other competitions. Each team member picks an aspect of the Future Scene on which to write a scenario. Two hours are given to complete the competition.

Community Problem Solving Competition[edit]

Community Problem Solving (CmPS) is a component of the FPSP that encourages students to identify and solve problems in their own community using the FPS Process. CmPS teams use the six step process to solve problems they see in their community. They compete at two levels, state and internationals. They are graded on two things, their six page addendum which is a type of formal scrap book and a six page report which has everything in writing of what they have done. At Internationals the CmPS groups have a total of three and a half hours to make a board on spot and also have to go through a half hour interview with a judge.

At FPSPI 2008, Team "Read A Book, Live A Life" from Hwa Chong Institution became the first ever team from Singapore to have won the grand championship with their work towards the autism community. In 2009, a team from Pecatonica, WI won the overall competition with a project called "DRIVE" which focused on student driving. In 2010, a team from Palm Coast, FL, won the E. Paul Torrance award (Beyonder Award) with a project called "Faces of Autism" which addressed the transition program for individuals with autism while creating a documentary, garden, and visiting various classes to educate students. In 2011, The CmPS Team from Casa Grande, Arizona, took home the Grand Champion title for their project "SOS (Saving Our School)", which addressed the students' failing school status by improving resources and access to the library, improving the transition of eighth graders to high school, forming community partnerships, earmarking funds for scholarships and improving the general appearance of the school facility itself. In 2013, Project W.I.S.H. from Raffles Girls' School (Secondary) became the second team from Singapore to win the title of Middle Division Grand Champions, with their work towards helping children in urban communities to interact with nature meaningfully.

Individual Community Problem Solving Competition[edit]

There is a variation of the CmPS designed for individual competitors.

Competition Divisions[edit]

Competition in the Future Problem Solving Program is divided into three divisions. These divisions are universal across all FPSPI competitions.

  • Junior: Grades 4–6
  • Middle: Grades 7–9
  • Senior: Grades 10–12

Levels of Competition[edit]

There are three levels of FPSPI competition. Not all levels are used in all competition types.[1]

  • Qualifying Problem (also known as the Regional Competition or the QP)
  • Affiliate Level (also known as the National Finals or State Bowl)
  • International Conference (IC): held for competitors who have been invited to compete at the International level. (Qualification typically involves placing in the top few positions at the Affiliate level.) The IC is typically held in late May or early June. A new location of the Conference is chosen every two years. The location of the 2014 and 2015 competitions is Iowa State University. The location of the 2012 and 2013 competitions was Indiana University Bloomington The location for the 2010 and 2011 competitions was University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. Michigan State University was the selected location for 2008 and 2009.

Competition Topics[edit]

Each FPSPI competition is oriented around a topic selected from the school year's topic list. The topic list is developed based on votes from FPSPI students and coaches.


The current topics for the 2013–2014 school year are[2]

Social Isolation[edit]

Recent to deleterious effects on the brain from social isolation, which in turn contributes to a of health problems. Those who are socially isolated have shorter life spans and suffer from more illnesses than those with active social lives. Feelings of social isolation have increased in populations around the world since the early 1900s. The disabled, the mentally ill, and the elderly are especially susceptible to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Is our fast-paced society contributing to this increase in isolation or do our busy lives allow for more social interactions? Is the internet permitting more social contact through social networking sites or interfering with it by limiting more intimate friendships? What measures need to be taken to reverse this trend? How will more advances in technology contribute to this silent killer?


According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), "...drylands cover about 40% of the Earth's land surface and are home to more than 2 billion people (WRI 2002)." UNEP also notes that the extent of desertification is increasing worldwide. Desertification is one of the most serious ecosystem changes facing people who live in poverty. Two-thirds of the world's poor live in areas that are susceptible to desertification, and over half of them depend on the land for their livelihoods. Many of desertification's causes are human in nature, but the problem can also be exacerbated by climate change. As severe weather events increase in frequency and severity due to global warming, degradation of dry lands tends to increase, causing a "feedback loop" that results in even more greenhouse gases.

As climate changes and human interference continue to cause land degradation, how will governments and land owners respond to the ever-changing condition of their lands? Will the Earth continue to lose forests and farmlands to desertification and what will be the effect on lifestyles and livelihoods as changes occur?

Surveillance Society[edit]

Google Earth aims to photograph every street in every country on Earth, surveillance satellites can photograph a person walking down the street from space, cities are increasingly being blanketed by CCTV cameras outdoors and indoors. People use their cameras in their houses to watch for burglars or even to survey how babysitters are looking after their children. Some cameras allow operators to communicate with the people they are watching. In London it is estimated that there are at least 1.5 million CCTV cameras in city centers, parks, stations, airport shops, and so on. There is little evidence that these cameras deter crime, with police in the UK saying "Police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any." A 2008 Report by UK Police Chefs concluded that CCTV solved only 3% of crimes. Do CCTV keep people safe? How do you know when and where you are being watched? Who controls the data that is gathered? Who can view it? How might it be used? Should the need for public safety outweigh the right to personal privacy?

Land Transportation[edit]

For almost one hundred years in most parts of the world, automobile ownership has allowed humans to commute to a better job, travel to exciting places, impress others, and just get away from it all. Rising fuel prices and concerns about climate change are forcing people to start rethinking how best to travel from point A to point B on a daily basis. Some areas invest more heavily in public transportation than others, but those who live in sparsely populated areas often do not see the need to invest in things like commuter rail service for the benefit of those in more densely populated areas. Are hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles the answer? Will regional air travel be a cheaper, quicker, safer, and more environmentally-friendly alternative to trains and buses in years to come? What new methods of transportation will be introduced, and how will they fit into our everyday lives?


Humans are driven to challenge the boundaries of society’s scientific and technical limits by exploring the unknown. For centuries this drive has inspired space exploration, resulting in new industries, collaborative relationships between nations, and expanded technology. Today many view space exploration as extravagant spending. Others believe governments and private industry should invest more on space, knowing that the scientific research could one day yield better medicines and technologies for mankind. In the next fifty years, will only commercial satellites and military missiles fly above Earth’s atmosphere or will human curiosity push exploration even deeper into space? Should we allow space exploration to be commercial and capitalistic ventures? Is settlement on foreign planets and moons a thing of science fiction or a realistic possibility for the future?

Past Topic Lists[edit]














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