Celebrating 50 Years and Beyond (1974-2024) at our International Conference June 5-9, 2024

The full list of 50+ years of solving real world challenges

General
word cloud of Future Problem Solving topics from the last 50 years

We stay relevant by utilizing real problems of the world and embracing the future.

Since our founding in 1974, Future Problem Solving topics have covered diverse category strands. The important challenges from business, civics, society, science, and technology engage students and inspire learning. By utilizing real problems of the world and embracing the future, we stay relevant in the ever-evolving educational space. 

The comprehensive list below includes all the Future Problem Solving competition topics from 1974 to today.

1970s

1974 Rejecting Authority • Attacks on Automation • Rehabilitating Criminals • Rejection of Competition • Immunization against Disease • Increasing Intelligence 1975 Knowledge Explosion • Mental Stress 1976 Changing Gender Roles • Job Mobility 1977 The Cooling of the Earth • Jobs for All No Fight! No Competition! 1978 Future Water Shortages • World Hunger • Many Ways of Doing Things • Computers in an Information Society 1979 Underwater Colonization • Space Colonization • An Older Population • Invention & High Technology

1980s

1980 Transportation • Space Travel • Ocean Farming • Hypnosis & Psychic Energy • Alternative Energy Sources 1981 Solar Energy • Transportation • Home Computers • Hunger & Malnutrition • Increasing Longevity 1982 Child Abuse • Extranormal Mental Powers • Drug Use • Endangered Wildlife • Space Colonization 1983 UFOs • Ocean Communities • Robotics • Pet Overpopulation • Computers • Nuclear War 1984 Electronic Games • Prisons • Lasers • Nuclear Waste • Genetic Engineering 1985 Drunk Driving • Nuclear War • Education • The Greenhouse Effect • Industrialization of Space 1986 Endangered Species • Feeding the World • Artificial Intelligence • American Legal System • Organ Transplants 1987 Garbage • Changing Family Structures • Water • Illiteracy • The Impact of the Media 1988 Space Travel • The Elderly • Acid Rain • Immigration • Birth Defects 1989 Energy Sources • Youth and the Law • Nutrition • Employment • Terrorism

1990s

1990 Shrinking Tropical Forests • The Arms Race • Poverty • Medical Advances • Crime 1991 High School Dropouts • Ozone Depletion • Transportation • Censorship • Corruption in Government 1992 Space Exploration • Legal Epidemic • Sports Ethics • Land Use • Advertising 1993 Stress on Students • Hunger • Oceans • Drugs • Nuclear Waste 1994 Robotics • Antarctica • Extinction of Animals • Space Law • Control of Disease 1995 Cities • Homelessness • Kids and Violence • Prejudice • Privacy 1996 Firearms • Mental Health • 21st Century Marketplace • Cybernetics • United Nations 1997 Homes of the Future • Extraterrestrial Life • Cashless Society • Competition • Increasing Life Span 1998 Natural Disasters • Freedom • Women in the Workplace • Non-Traditional Families • Medical Ethics 1999 Under the Sea • Computer Error • Education: Lifelong Learning • Prison Alternatives • Distribution of Wealth

2000s

2000 Fads • Amateur Sports • The Internet • Financial Security • Genetic Engineering 2001 Tourism • World Population • Water • Habitats • Global Interdependence 2002 Alternative Energy • Educational Options • Organ Donations • Environmental Law • Virtual Corporations. 2003 Sports Medicine • E-Commerce • Nanotechnology • DNA Identification • Worldwide Communication. 2004 Smart Clothes • Rage and Bullying • Artificial Intelligence • Media Impact • Immigration 2005 Entertainment • Terrorism/Security • Agriculture of the 21st Century • Depletion of Oceanic Species • Business Crime 2006 Climate Change/Climate Threat • Freedom of Speech • Nutrition • Healthcare Access • Redistribution of Wealth 2007 Fundraising/Charity Giving • Protection of National Treasures • Cultural Prejudice • Caring for Our Elders • Privacy. 2008 Body Enhancement • Simulation Technology • Neurotechnology • Debt in Developing Countries • Child Labor 2009 Olympic Games • Cyber Conflict • Space Junk • Counterfeit Economy • Pandemic

2010s

2010 Sensory Overload • Invasive Species • Orphaned Children • Food Distribution • Green Living 2011 Healthy Living • Air Transport • Genetic Testing • Water Quality • Emergency Planning 2012 All in a Day’s Work • Coral Reefs • Human Rights • Trade Barriers • Pharmaceuticals 2013 Culture of Celebrity • Robotic Age • Megacities • Ocean Soup • Global Status of Women 2014 Social Isolation • Desertification • Surveillance Society • Land Transportation • Space 2015 The Impact of Social Media • Processed Foods • Propaganda • Enhancing Human Potential • Intellectual Property 2016 Treatment of Animals • Disappearing Languages • Recovering From Disaster • The Global Workplace • Energy of the Future 2017 Educational Disparities • It’s All in the Genes • 3D Printing • Identity Theft • Biosecurity 2018 Spread of Infectious Disease • Toxic Materials • Philanthrocapitalism • Cloud Storage • Criminal Justice Systems 2019 Mission to Moon, Mars, and Beyond • Drones • Food Loss & Waste • Coping with Stress • De-Extinction 

2020s

2020 International Travel • Sleep Patterns • Gamification • Living in Poverty • Terraforming 2021 Youth in Competitive Sports • Wearable Technology • Human Environmental Impact • Personalized Medicine • Neurotechnology 2022 Water Supply • Building Green • Insects • Mining • Antibiotic Resistance 2023 E-Waste • Digital Realities • Robotic Workforce • Throwaway Society • Currency 2024 Artificial Intelligence • Tourism • Urbanization • Antarctica • Autonomous Transportation • Air Quality 2025 Food Security • Rising Sea Levels • Agricultural Industry • Nanotechnology 

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Our Future Problem Solving topics represent important challenges from business, civics, society, science, and technology and serve as the thematic basis for given problem solving situations. Each year, students in grades 4-12 get to solve important near-future global issues and progress through local, regional, and international competitions. Through our programs, problem solvers learn how to think, not what to think, and gain skills they need to succeed in work and life. To learn more about Future Problem Solving visit fpspi.org.

Future Problem Solving Students – A Five Year Study

(2016)

A Comparison of Reading and Mathematics Performance Between Students Participating in a Future Problem Solving Program and Nonparticipants

Data from the The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) was collected by Grandview Middle School and provided to Scholastic Testing Service, Inc. for statistical analysis.


Findings reported by Scholastic Testing Service, Inc. Performance data on the MCA was collected from 2010-2014 for students in grade 6 at Grandview Middle School in Mound, MN (Westonka Public School District). Students were identified as either FPS: students participating in a Future Problem Solving program, or Non-FPS: students not participating in the program. Summary statistics using Reading and Mathematics Scaled Scores were developed for each group of students by year and across years. To determine if the mean scores across the years were significantly different, t-tests were used. A Cohen’s d test was then performed to measure the effect of the size of the found differences.

In all cases, students participating in the Future Problem Solving Program performed significantly higher on the MCA in both areas of Mathematics and Reading.

Effects of Group Training in Problem-Solving Style on Future Problem-Solving Performance

(2017)

The Journal of Creative Behavior (JCB) of the Creative Education Foundation

Seventy-five participants from one suburban high school formed 21 teams with 3–4 members each for Future Problem Solving (FPS). Students were selected to participate in either the regular FPS or an enhanced FPS, where multiple group training activities grounded in problem-solving style were incorporated into a 9-week treatment period.

An ANCOVA procedure was used to examine the difference in team responses to a creative problem-solving scenario for members of each group, after accounting for initial differences in creative problem-solving performance, years of experience in FPS, and creative thinking related to fluency, flexibility, and originality. The ANCOVA resulted in a significant difference in problem-solving performance in favor of students in the treatment group (F(1, 57) = 8.21, p = .006, partial eta squared = .126, medium), while there were no significant differences in years of experience or creativity scores. This result led researchers to conclude that students in both groups had equivalent creative ability and that participation in the group activities emphasizing problem-solving style significantly contributed to creative performance.

In the comparison group, a total of 47% had scores that qualified for entry to the state competition. In contrast, 89% of the students in the treatment group had scores that qualified them for the state bowl. None of the teams from the comparison group qualified for the international competition, while two teams from the treatment group were selected, with one earning sixth place.

The results of this study suggest that problem-solving performance by team members can be improved through direct instruction in problem-solving style, particularly when there is a focus on group dynamics.

The Journal of Creative Behavior, Vol. 0, Iss. 0, pp. 1–12 © 2017 by the Creative Education Foundation, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/jocb.176

Future Problem Solving Program International—Second Generation Study

(2011)

“How important was Future Problem Solving in the development of your following skill sets?”

In 2011, a team of researchers from the University of Virginia submitted a report titled “Future Problem Solving Program International—Second Generation Study.” (Callahan, Alimin, & Uguz, 2012). The study, based on a survey, collected data from over 150 Future Problem Solving alumni to understand the impact of their participation in Future Problem Solving as students or volunteers.

 
Percentage of Alumni Rating Important and Extremely Important in Developing Skill Sets
  • 96% Look at the “Big Picture”
  • 93% Critical Thinking
  • 93% Teamwork and Collaboration
  • 93% Identify and Solve Problems
  • 93% Time Management
  • 90% Researching
  • 90% Evaluation and Decision Making
  • 86% Creativity and Innovation
  • 86% Written Communication
 
The report captured alumni’s positive experiences as students in Future Problem Solving and documented that the alumni continued to utilize the FPS-structured approach to solving problems in their adult lives.

Evaluation of the Future Problem Solving Program

(2011)

Data was obtained from 220 coaches, 633 students, 195 parents, and 34 affiliate directors nationally and internationally

The Center for Creative Learning, USA (Treffinger, Selby, and Crumel) completed an international evaluation of Future Problem Solving including three competitive programs (Global Issues, Community Projects, and Creative Writing). Surveys ascertained 1,082 respondents’ views of: the extent to which Future Problem Solving and its programs meet their stated goals, the strengths of the programs and areas for improvement, and the impact of the program on its participants.

All respondents with current experience participating in each program rated a comprehensive list of 11-12 skills using a 5-point Likert scale. The adult groups identified the impact on participating students’ learning and growth, and the students identified what skills their participation helped them with the most.

 
Top 5 Most Impactful Skills Identified by Program

GLOBAL ISSUES

Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (151)

  • Learning about complex issues that will shape the future (4.60)
  • Developing teamwork and collaboration, working together and cooperating with each other (4.39)
  • Fostering critical thinking (the ability to sort and sift information or to focus one’s thinking) (4.29)
  • Developing an active interest in the future (4.29)
  • Developing the skills needed to manage time effectively (4.02)

 

Students (242)

  • Learning about topics that will have important effects on the future. (4.14)
  • Working together and cooperating with others (4.13)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.99)
  • Helping become a better leader (3.90)
  • Deciding on the best solution to a problem (3.87)

 

COMMUNITY PROJECTS

Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (64)

  • Enhancing the skills of preparing and delivering materials and/or presentations that communicate ideas effectively (4.76)
  • Developing teamwork and collaboration (working together, cooperating with each other)(4.56)
  • Developing leadership skills (4.56)
  • Showing evidence that team members are able to apply FPS skills in other situations (4.30)
  • Developing the skills needed to manage time effectively (4.27)

 

Students (107)

  • Working together and cooperating with others (4.33)
  • Feeling that I can make a difference in shaping the future (4.13)
  • Deciding on the best solution to a problem (4.07)
  • Helping me become a better leader (3.97)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.96)

 

CREATIVE WRITING

Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (82)

  • Enhancing and expanding writing skills (4.39)
  • Developing an active interest in the future (4.11)
  • Learning about complex issues that will shape the future (4.10)
  • Thinking and researching futuristically (4.06)
  • Fostering creative thinking (the ability to generate many, varied, and unusual options (3.98)

 

Students (146)

  • Thinking and researching futuristically (4.08)
  • Developing better writing skills (4.05)
  • Learning about topics that will have important effects on the future (3.99)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.92)
  • Finding information in many different places (3.69)

 

Note, 88% of parents were satisfied with the Future Problem Solving program their youngster(s) participated in and a majority of parents with eligible students anticipated a high level of interest in participating again next year (60.9%).

Alumni Top 5 Most Impactful Skills on Their Development

A group of 48 alumni also responded to surveys focused on their past experiences and the impact those experiences had on their development into adulthood. Approximately 8 in 10 reported Future Problem Solving was very helpful or extremely helpful in secondary school (81%), in academic work after high school (78%), and in other life experiences outside school or academic work (81%). Looking back on their experience, the aspects below were rated the five most important and valuable.

  • Learning ways to think of many different and unusual ideas (4.75)
  • Learning how to choose the best solution for a problem (4.42)
  • Learning how to work or collaborate with others (4.41)
  • Developing better writing skills (4.36)
  • Learning a specific process for solving problems (4.35)
 
Results indicated strong overall satisfaction with Future Problem Solving among all stakeholder groups, as well as evidence of positive impact on academic and real-life accomplishments and personal relationships.

 

5-point Likert scale:
Adults: 1 = Little or no impact, 2 = Limited impact, 3 = Moderate impact, 4 = High impact, 5 = Exceptional impact
Students: 1= Hasn’t helped me at all, 2 = Helped me just a little, 3 = Helped me = “Okay”, 4 = Helped me quite a bit, 5= Really a great help to me
Alumni: 1=Not Important, 2=Of Little Importance, 3=Somewhat Important, 4=Very Important, 5=Extremely Important

April Michele

April Michele Bio

Executive Director

A seasoned educator, April Michele has served as the Executive Director since 2018 and been with Future Problem Solving more than a decade. Her background in advanced curriculum strategies and highly engaging learning techniques translates well in the development of materials, publications, training, and marketing for the organization and its global network. April’s expertise includes pedagogy and strategies for critical and creative thinking and providing quality educational services for students and adults worldwide.

Prior to joining Future Problem Solving, April taught elementary and middle grades, spending most of her classroom career in gifted education. She earned the National Board certification (NBPTS) as a Middle Childhood/Generalist and later served as a National Board assessor for the certification of others. In addition, April facilitated the Theory and Development of Creativity course for the state of Florida’s certification of teachers. She has also collaborated on a variety of special projects through the Department of Education. Beyond her U.S. education credentials, she has been trained for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) in Humanities.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and the University of South Florida with a master’s in Gifted Education, April’s passion is providing a challenging curriculum for 21st century students so they are equipped with the problem-solving and ethical leadership skills they need to thrive in the future. As a board member in her local Rotary Club, she facilitates problem solving in leadership at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute and earned her certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Edyth Bush Institute at Rollins College.