Future Problem Solving Program International
Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) organizes academic competitions in which students apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to hypothetical future situations. The program looks at current technological, geopolitical, and societal trends and projects those trends 20–30 years into the future in order to train students to develop solutions to the challenges they may face as adults. FPSPI was founded by creativity researcher Ellis Paul Torrance in 1974. Today, thousands of students from over a dozen countries participate in the program each year. The program is open to students who are in the equivalent of the U.S. grade level range of 4 through 12.
FPSPI Mission: To develop the ability of young people globally to design and achieve positive futures through problem solving using critical and creative thinking. The "4 C's" as they are called (Communication, Collaboration, Creative Thinking, and Critical Thinking), are what the program aims to develop in young people.
FPSPI is a federation of state- or nationwide organizations called affiliates. Each affiliate is responsible for conducting the competitions which take place in its own geographic area. There are affiliate programs in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Australia, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Malaysia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, New Zealand, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Texas, United Kingdom, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Programs that are being developed exist as mentored regions in Arkansas, China, France, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Republic of Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Wyoming.
Students begin preparing for competition at the start of each school year. Depending on the affiliate and the type of competition, there may be regional, state, or national levels of competition that take place during the year. Only the winners of any given competition qualify to proceed to the next level. The highest level of competition takes place at the annual International Conference (IC), which is held in May or June, at the end of the United States school year. The IC is held at the campus of a public university in the United States (the country with the largest number of competitors), with a new location being chosen every two years.
Each round of competition focuses on a different topic for students to research. Topics come from one of three categories (a) Business/Economics (b) Science/Technology (c) Social/Political. The FPSPI global community is encouraged to submit topics for consideration. Recent topics have included: The Impact of Social Media, Surveillance Society, Disappearing Languages, and BioSecurity.
There are four competitive components and one curricular component offered by FPSPI. Affiliates may offer all or some of those available. Each component encourages critical and creative thinking different ways to help students develop the skills necessary for the 21st Century.
Global Issues Problem Solving
Global Issues Problem Solving (GIPS) is the main FPSPI competition on which the others are based. Students are grouped by grade level and may compete as individuals or as teams of four.
Prior to each competition, FPSPI announces the competition topic (such as "Artificial Intelligence" or "Immigration") and provides a list of suggested readings. Students spend 1–2 months researching the topic with an eye to potential future challenges and solutions. FPSPI has conducted competitions on dozens of topics over the years, covering a wide gamut of subject matter in the natural and social sciences.
At the beginning of the two-hour-long competition, students are given a Future Scene (FS), a one- to two-page document that describes the hypothetical future situation having to do with the pre-announced topic. Competitors then proceed according to the six-step Future Problem Solving process :
- Identify 16 Challenges in the Future Scene.
- Formulate an attainable Underlying Problem to address.
- Brainstorm 16 Solutions to solve the Underlying Problem, keeping in mind possibilities for future technologies. During the grading process, work is graded on both futurism and creativity.
- Write 5 Criteria to judge the solutions' positive impact on the Future Scene.
- Using the criteria, evaluate the solutions and rank them in a Grid.
- Elaborate with an Action Plan based on the highest-ranking solution, usually one to two pages in length, handwritten.
After completing the six-step process in two hours, students immediately begin work on a second competition called "Presentation of Action Plan" in which they illustrate their final solution by preparing and performing a skit. While skits are graded, this evaluation has no bearing on whether the individual or team will proceed to higher levels of competition.
Community Problem Solving
Community Problem Solving (CmPS) is the "present-day" variant of Future Problem Solving. In CmPS competitions, students are evaluated on how well they apply the six-step problem-solving process to present-day problems in their own community. Students identify areas of concern in their own communities, and utilizing the problem solving process implement action plans to improve their world. The types of project conducted are as diverse as the communities and participants. Issues examined have included, traffic safety in school zones, homelessness, safe driving, Zika deterrence, and animal shelter support. Highlighted projects are featured on the FPSPI website.
Scenario Performance (ScP) is for students who enjoy telling stories. This option is ideally suited to students who show thinking abilities in different ways - particularly for those whose cultural heritage and/or learning styles prefer oral communication.
In the Scenario Writing competition, students write a short story, set at least 20 years in the future, based on one of the competition topics for Global Issues Problem Solving. Students write their short story at home or at school and mail it in for evaluation. Winners are invited to participate in a timed collaborative-writing competition at the International Conference where they have to draw character and plot ideas from the future scene given to them when the time starts, as well as having to link their scenario to those of their teammates.
Action-based Problem Solving
AbPS is designed for integration into the classroom curriculum and can be used with the primary level (K-3) and up through grade 9. AbPS teaches a simplified version of the problem solving process, providing guidance in the writing of ideas. The materials may be used with a few students or with an entire class; either the teacher or the students may record the ideas that are generated; the work may be completed with complete teacher guidance or independently in small groups.
FPSPI is a not for profit 501(c) organization that is able to complete its goals with the help of many volunteers across a range of activities. Coaches work with students throughout the year developing their analytical and creative problem solving skills. All students receive feedback on their work from a group of knowledgeable evaluators trained specifically for each component offered. Writing teams work throughout the year developing Future Scenes to serve as the backdrop of GIPS competition. They work in collaboration with FPSPI and Futurists. There are always opportunities available for new comers and experienced "FPSers" alike.
The FPS Alumni Network works to bring together former student competitors who have been impacted by the program. Many have gone on to incredible success in a wide range of fields: screenwriter Allison Schroeder, energy business founder Alec Manfre, public servant Forrest Dunbar, development specialist Shefa Sikder, and Peace Corps educator Rachel Wolf.