by MAD

Second place for Future Problem Solver

When people talk about representing New Zealand; what leaps to mind? Many would think of the All Blacks, Silver Ferns or the Black Caps. Maybe even the Tall Blacks. One thing that doesn’t come to mind is Future Problem Solving. Yet, every year New Zealand representatives fly to the United States to compete in this competition.

Future Problem Solving (FPS) is an international competition for school students from Year 6 to Year 13. 

It seeks to boost creativity, critical thinking and caring skills. Above all, it aims to give young people the skills to design and promote positive futures as citizens of the 21st Century. It achieves this by getting students to come up with creative, humane and effective solutions to problems which may arise in the future.

Every year students are given a topic that must be thoroughly researched. Past topics include De-Extinction, Cloud Storage and Philanthrocapitalism. At the competition we are given a short story set some time in the future. We must identify problems with it. Teams of 4 must find 16 problems, Individuals (like myself) must find 8. 

After finding our problems we create an Underlying Problem; the main problem. We then create solutions to address this. After coming up with solutions we generate criteria to judge them, select our best one and write an elaboration on it, in the form of a 1-2 page ‘Action Plan’. All this must be done in 2 hours.

Last year I travelled to the University of Massachusetts to compete in this competition. I got 6th. This year I qualified again. I wanted to do better than I did last time and was looking forward to another trip to the US. Unfortunately, Covid-19 came along and the competition was moved online. Even though I was in my house, I was competing internationally, so I still tried just as hard. 

The topic this year was Terraforming. This is the process of changing other planets to make them habitable. I logged in online unsure of what I would be faced with, I stuck my head down and did my best.

A whole four days later the awards ceremony was livestreamed. I sat in anticipation until; there it was. My name popped up! I had gotten Second place. In the whole world.

I am very happy with my result (even if someone from Florida did manage to beat me for First!) and hope to continue with the FPS program in years to come.

Now, in future when people talk of representing New Zealand the All Blacks and Silver Ferns will probably still leap to mind. But I hope that somewhere, just somewhere, in the back of your mind, FPS has its own wee place!