Future Problem Solving Program International

Future Problem Solving Program International

The Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI), formerly known as the Future Problem Solving Program (FPSP), is an international academic competition. Over 250,000 students internationally participate in the Future Problem Solving program every year. Participating countries include the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan.


The Future Problem Solving Program was founded in 1973 by the late Dr. E. Paul Torrance, a professor of educational psychology from the University of Georgia. He is considered the “father” of the Future Problem Solving Program which has since evolved into an international program with 41 affiliate programs and over 250,000 students participating. He designed the program as a way of helping capable students think more creatively and productively about critical issues.

Competition Divisions

Competition in the Future Problem Solving Program is divided into three divisions. These divisions are universal across all FPS competitions except for the Adult competition and Action-based Problem Solving.

*Junior: Grades 4-6
*Intermediate: Grades 7-9
*Senior: Grades 10-12

Levels of Competition

There are a total of three official levels of FPS competition, plus two optional practice competitions.

*Practice Problems 1 and 2 - The practice problems are designed to prepare students, especially those new at FPS, for the Qualifying Problem. Although the practice problem packets are judged by an evaluator, they have no competitive value. In some affiliates, students complete only the first three steps for the first practice problem.
*Qualifying Problem (also known as Regional Level) - Results are used to select participants for the Affiliate level.
*Affiliate Level (also known as State Bowl) - Winners from the Qualifying problem are invited to the State Bowl to compete. The Winners from the State Bowl are invited to participate in the International Conference.
*International Conference - All the winners from the various states and countries compete.

International Conference

The International Conference (IC) is a conference held for competitors who have been invited to compete at the International level. The IC is typically held in early June.

A new Conference location is chosen every two years. In 2008, the International conference will be held at Michigan State University. The location for the 2006 and 2007 competitions was the Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. Past locations have included the University of Kentucky, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Georgia.

Future Scene

The Future Scene (previously known as the "Fuzzy Situation" and sometimes still called the "Fuzzy") is used in all FPS competitions except the Scenario Writing, Community Problem Solving, and Individual Community Problem Solving competitions. It is a short story, often printed on one single-sided page, set at some point in the future (usually 20-30 years). Each Future Scene is based on the school year's competition topics, and is the basis for solving the problem pertaining to that topic.

The majority of a future scene provides details and challenges that are being faced in the scene. The last paragraph, called the "charge," instructs competitors as to what their exact role is in writing the booklet.

Typically, two versions of all future scenes are produced, with juniors' scenes being written with less advanced vocabulary and vice versa for the Seniors and Middle.

FPS Process

The FPS Process is used in all competitions except the Scenario Writing and On-site Scenario Writing competitions. The steps of the process are as follows:

# Identify the Challenges: Find possible problems within the given Future Scene. There are sixteen spaces for this on the team competition. It usually goes in a format like this: "Because ..., ... may result, and this is a problem because ...".
# Select and write the Underlying Problem: Determine the most important or consequential problem.
# Produce Solution Ideas: Write solutions to solve the Underlying Problem. This includes a who, what, why, how, and sometimes a where and when.
# Create Criteria: Write 5 criteria by which to judge the solutions. There should be superlatives involved.
# Grid (Apply Criteria): Judge the solutions with the criteria, and determine which solution is the best overall. If some lack enough time, they may do it the "fast way" (choosing which solution they want ahead of time and make it win), which is not suggested but many do it.
# Develop an Action Plan: The highest-scoring (best) solution, as determined by the grid, is elaborated into a detailed plan or essay for the implementation of that solution.

Many of these steps have predetermined structure to guide teams in their writing. For instance, the underlying problem (or U.P.) must include parameters (date, topic, place).

Types of Competition

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

Team Competition

Teams are composed of no more than 4 members (you can have less). Teams compete by analyzing the Future Scene for the competition and applying the FPS Process, as it is listed above. The final product is known as a "booklet." When completing a competition booklet, each team can write a maximum of 16 problems and 16 solutions. Each team, regardless of the division, has no more than two hours to complete the FPS process when participating competitively.

All teams, worldwide, use the same Future Scene. Since the Future Scene for any given topic is not revealed until the actual competition, much of the team's accumulated research on that topic may not be applicable to the specific Future Scene. The overall intent of this method is to encourage creativity and spontaneous thought among the teams.

The first two problems of the year are practice problems. These problems do not technically have a time limit, although teams are expected to roughly compete within two hours. Such practice problems are not "competitive" in the sense that the qualifier (#3) problem, affiliate (#4) and international (#5) problems are; competitive conditions do not have to be observed, but otherwise the booklets for problems 1 and 2 are solved and evaluated the same way as any of the competitive problems. Teams are encouraged to complete the two optional Practice Problems before starting the official competition.

Individual Competition

Individual competitions are similar to team competitions, except that only one competitor completes a packet instead of four. Individual competitors can complete a maximum of 8 challenges and solutions per packet. They also only have to grade 5 of their solutions in Step 5 as opposed to 8 solutions for teams.

Individual competition levels are the same as team competition levels.

Alternate Competition

"Alternates" are competitors who are randomly assigned into temporary teams at each competition. Some states feature this competition at their Regional or Affiliate bowls. Alternates cannot progress into higher levels of competition themselves; they are typically dependent on a particular team.

For example, if an FPS coach has five intermediate competitors, four could form a team while the fifth could be an Alternate. If the team advanced from the Qualifying level to the Affiliate level, the Alternate would advance also. If the team did not advance from the Affiliate level to the International Conference, the Alternate would not advance.

Action-based Problem Solving

Action-based Problem Solving is a component for students grades K-9.

Adult Competition

The Adult Competition is held at the International level 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

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 school year's competition topics. Unlike many other FPS 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: Affiliate and International. The scenarios that win first, second, and third in each division at the Affiliate level are sent to the International level for evaluation. In addition, the first place Affiliate winner in each division is invited to the International Conference to compete in the On-Site Scenario Competition.

If a scenario places within the top five at the International level, the writer will be invited to IC if they have not already qualified for an invitation because of placing first in their state.

On-site Scenario Writing Competition

Competitors of the Scenario Writing competition who are invited to the International Conference compete in the On-site 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 International-level 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.

Skit Competition

In some levels of competition, teams compete in skit competitions (also known as the "Presentation of the Action Plan" or "Dramatic Presentation"), whereby they act out a short play (time limit is typically two to four minutes) based on their action plan. Individuals and alternates from the same school, country, state, etc. can help teams in their division (or a higher division) perform a skit. Teams are provided with a list of materials from which they may fashion their props and costumes, and are rewarded for using materials creatively and effectively, and are penalized for use of unsanctioned materials. Materials may include items like tin foil, a stapler, a roll of tape, garbage bags, and so on. Skits are evaluated by a judge or panel of judges. However, no one can use objects that are on their person that are not "normal" objects (such as glasses, not everyone has them).

Whether or not a skit competition is held at a Regional or Affiliate level depends on the FPS affiliate. Skits are always performed at the International level. At the International level (and sometimes at lower levels, again at the option of the affiliate), teams are provided with one or two spontaineous props and a compulsory quote which must be incorporated into the team's skit presentation.

Community Problem Solving Competition

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. At the International level, CmPS teams can have up to 12 students. (This limit can vary at lower levels of competition.)

Participating teams go through the entire problem solving process over the course of the year using an issue from their community (or even current national or international issues) as the subject. After choosing an aspect of the issue to focus on as their underlying problem, they brainstorm a number of possible solutions. Especially in the upper levels, CmPS participants are expected to do all of the work themselves with the coach serving as an advisor rather than facilitator.

The most crucial step in CmPS is the action plan. In CmPS, the Action Plan is not merely a theoretical plan but a course of action that the CmPSers will attempt to carry out. While a detailed booklet-only action plan for non-CmPS competitors would be written in ten to fifteen minutes, CmPSers carefully polish their plan and work out all the details. Throughout the process, CmPS teams document their work (research, process writing, implementation, and so on) and create a scrapbook/binder and other materials showing what they did, how they accomplished it, and the effect it had on their community.

At the International Conference, the top teams bring their work and create a display for the CmPS judges to evaluate and for others at the conference to enjoy during the CmPS Fair. The CmPS team also presents their project to the judges in an interview. Participants are judged on the project itself (as presented in the display and in interviews with the evaluators), how they work together in creating the display (while teams typically arrive with components already prepared, the display itself must be created at the conference), and their documentation of the process.

Individual Community Problem Solving Competition

Individual CmPS is identical to the team CmPS described above, except that only one person competes. Therefore, each individual competitor must write his or her own action plan and implement it without the aid of a team, though they join a team for the skit presentation.

Competition Topics

FPS competition topics are voted upon by students and coaches of the FPS competition. Each year five topics are chosen, one for each level of competition as listed above.

The Future Scenes used by Team, Individual, Alternate, and Adult competitors are based on the topic for the current round of competition. Scenario Writers can choose one of the five topics as a topic for their scenario, whereas On-site Scenario Writers must write scenarios based on the International topic. The Competition Topics are not applicable to CmPS competitors, since they chose their own problem that they would like to solve in their community.

Topic List

Current Topics (2008-2009)

The topics for the 2008-2009 school year are:

* Olympic Games
* Cyber Conflict
* Space Junk
* Counterfeit Economy
* Pandemic

Upcoming Topics


* Sensory Overload
* Invasive Species
* Orphaned Children
* Food Distribution
* Green Living


* Healthy Living
* Air Transport
* Genetic Testing
* Water Quality
* Emergency Planning

Past Topics


* Body Enhancement
* Simulation Technology
* Neurotechnology
* Debt in Developing Countries
* Child Labor


* Fundraising and Charity Giving
* Protection of National Treasures
* Cultural Prejudice
* Caring for Our Elders
* Privacy


*Climate Change/Threat
*Freedom of Speech
*Healthcare Access
*Redistribution of Wealth


*Agriculture of the 21st Century
*Depletion of Oceanic Species
*Business Crime


*Sports Medicine
*DNA Identification
*Worldwide Communication


*Alternative Energy
*Educational Options
*Organ Donation
*Environmental Law
*Virtual Corporations


*World Population
*International Relations


*Financial Security
*Amateur Sports
*The Internet
*Genetic Engineering

Past International Conference Locations

The following is a list of locations of past International Conferences.


Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan


Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado


Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado


University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky


University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky


University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut


University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut


University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia

Unknown Years: University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI

See also

*List of Future Problem Solving Program Affiliates

External links

* [http://www.fpspi.org/ Future Problem Solving Program International]
* [http://www.fpsers.net/ Future Problem Solvers Community Website]

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