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 (Grid): 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 (step 5), 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 challenges and solutions per packet.

Individual competition levels are the same as team competition levels.

Multi-Affiliate 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 2014–2015 school year are[2]

The Impact of Social Media[edit]

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Second Life, wikis, blogging, tweeting - all of these words have entered our lives in the last few years. The impact of Web 2.0 and the rise of associated social media have changed our lives in many ways that we are only just beginning to understand.

Regimes have fallen because of the use of social media; careers can be jeopardized due to past and present social events posted on social media; people all over the world are able to collaborate in real time to work and to play. Some people think social media has a detrimental effect on people’s social lives; others believe it is a new and exciting way of socializing and developing relationships.

How might social media continue to impact our lives? Who will monitor the truth and accuracy of social media? Will social media lead to increased social isolation or enhanced global collaboration? Is there a need for controls, monitoring, or restrictions on social media? Do the positives outweigh the detrimental effects? Does any government have the right to legislate the use of social media by its citizens?

Processed Foods[edit]

An increased interest in food and health has occurred around the world. Many questions have been asked on this topic: Where are food products produced? How? Why? Who produces food products? How far have these products traveled? How long have they been stored? How is food tracked from “farm to fork”?

A huge number of food products are now chemically-enhanced and processed. Foods may be labeled as “natural flavors,” but these do not necessarily come from the original product. Strawberry flavoring, for example, may have started out as a bacterial protein. Are preservatives safe? How might the addition of flavor enhancers, vitamins and minerals, phosphate additives, and sugar and fat substitutes affect our overall health? What are beneficial reasons for using processed foods? What processed foods should we avoid? Genetic engineering is still under study and remains controversial. Nanotechnology represents the latest high technology attempt to infiltrate our food supply. Do these new technologies pose serious new risks for human health?


Propaganda is communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position. Selective messages are used to produce an emotional rather than rational response from the audience. Common media for transmitting propaganda messages include news reports, government reports, historical revision, junk science, books, leaflets, movies, radio, television, and posters. Propaganda shares techniques with advertising and public relations.

With growing trends in communication, how will propaganda be spread in the future through digital media? How can wealth of individuals, groups, or countries advance a particular agenda? In a number of regional and global conflicts, including both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Balkan Conflict, and more recently the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, propaganda has more typically referred to political or nationalist uses of these techniques. Examples of these techniques include the following: instilling panic, appealing to prejudice, creating a bandwagon, demonizing the enemy, stating half-truths, and providing a scapegoat. Propaganda usually exists on both sides of a conflict, but is often perceived as negative in nature. What are some positive examples of present-day propaganda? What are some negative examples of present-day propaganda?

Enhancing Human Potential[edit]

Through the use of performance enhancing drugs, personal trainers, speed-enhancing swimsuits, technologies for body and brain, people can enhance their potential in physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities. As time goes on, humans will be offered even more ways to enhance their potential in unprecedented ways: cybernetic body parts, memory-enhancing or erasing drugs, technologically advanced sports equipment, and/or humans/computer interfaces, etc. Will the definition of “human” change? Many ethical issues surround these advances: Should sports people be able to enhance their performances in any way they like? Should parents be able to choose IQ or mood boosters such as drugs or brain implants for their children? What impacts might exist with the disparities between the “haves” and the “have-nots”? How far might the human brain and body be pushed? To what extent can we “perfect” the human body? What “enhancers” do we have presently? What are the dangers, as well as benefits, of powerful new technologies that might radically change the lives of human beings?

International Competition Topic: Intellectual Property[edit]

Music can be downloaded on the internet without the permission of the musician. "Knock-off" watches, purses, and sunglasses are being sold on city streets. Counterfeit drugs are available in countries around the world, particularly in poorer regions where cost and availability is an issue. All of these things have something in common with a thief: they all involve illegally taking someone else's property.

Intellectual property - literary works, music, names and logos that convey information, designs for inventions - plays an important role in the global economy. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are all legal protections that allow creators to exclusively benefit from their innovations, thus encouraging creativity. In the age of globalization and digitalization, these legal protections are being put to the test and pertinent questions must be considered:

  • How can intellectual property be protected across borders?
  • Are the Berne Convention, the Madrid Protocol, and the World Trade Organization up to this task?
  • Are moral or cultural rights, including the knowledge and practice of indigenous people, adequately protected?
  • In specific situations, such as when patents result in life-saving medicines being unaffordable in less developed countries, how should intellectual property rights be enforced?
  • Should patent assertion entities, or patent trolls, have the same rights as creators of intellectual property?
  • Could the inability to protect intellectual property hamper creativity?


Past Topic Lists[edit]
















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