I just got back from judging in the state competition for Future Problem Solvers. The Future Problem Solving Program was founded by creativity pioneer, Dr. E. Paul Torrance. Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) and stimulates critical and creative thinking skills, encourages students to develop a vision for the future, and prepares students for leadership roles. The finalists in the state competition go on to the International competition, so this is a big deal!
There is no doubt the next generation of problem solvers are well prepared and versed in the newest sciences and most critical challenges the world faces.
This year’s topic was the problem with oceanic plastic soup. I judged the intermediate level, 7-9th graders from various schools in Texas, and they were all impressive! The students were to come up with creative and fairly reasonable solutions to the probem and act out their action plan dramatically. They know nothing about the topic until the same day and are given limited props for their skit. All aspects are evaluated.
Some students imagined biological solutions involving converting plastic particles into biodegradable components – even entering back into the oceanic food chain in the form of plankton. Some chose robotic solutions, where robotic fishes were to swim and collect the debris and bring it in for reprocessing into energy. Some had more mechanical solutions such as sifting the contaminated water where the toxins and plastics are collected and the water cleansed.
All contestant groups were well prepared, intelligent, humorous and vastly talented on so many levels! Being a judge and singling out only one winner team was incredibly difficult.
If you are unfamiliar with ‘plastic soup’ and what harm it does for sea life, here’s a primer.