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

Real World Issues

Our Approach

Problems of the world cover diverse category strands

Our topics represent important challenges from business, civics, society, science, and technology and serve as the thematic basis for given problem-solving situations. Each school year, students get 3-5 opportunities to solve important near-future global issues based on their progress in local and regional competitions. Students may also choose to address a current local community issue with our Community Projects program.

robotic arm working on car

Business & Economics

From tourism to the robotic workforce, check out some of our recent global topics.

kids with trash bags

Civics & Society

From urbanization to criminal justice systems, see some of our recent global topics.

AI futuristic brain and technology graphic

Science & Technology

From neurotechnology to digital realities, review some of our recent global topics.

Favorite Topics

Staying power

Students become topic mini-experts as they build the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the classroom today and in their work and life tomorrow.
My all-time favorite is Mission to Moon, Mars and Beyond because the kids loved it, absolutely loved it, and engaged for the whole year. Their enthusiasm was contagious.
Suzanne Digby
Australia Future Problem Solving
(National Director)
Throwaway Society seems to have clear-cut answers, but it is far more nuanced than it first appears. Economic, social, and political pressures are all at play in a myriad of ways that make this topic so much more complex.
ann-foreyt-testimonial
Ann Foreyt
Technology Executive
(Alum)
Invasive Species. I barely remember some of the others, but this one changed my worldview. I think it's a major reason why I pursued my Master's degree in Environmental Science.
Amanda Genovese
Nonprofit Development Director
(Alum)

Competition Season

Students research and analyze topics to prepare

Each school year, two practice problems and one qualifying problem are available for all to complete. Those who qualify for their regional affiliate finals compete in a fourth problem for a chance to attend our annual International Conference in June. We announce all four problem topics annually on March 1 for the upcoming competition season and release additional topic details in June.

Northern Hemisphere (2024-2025)

Practice Problem #1

Practice Problem #1

Food Security

Practice Problem #2

Practice Problem #2

Rising Sea Levels

Qualifying Problem

Qualifying Problem

Agricultural Industry

Affiliate Finals Problem

Affiliate Finals Problem

Nanotechnology

International Conference 2025

International Conference 2025

Topic announced March 1, 2025

Southern Hemisphere (2024)

Practice Problem #1

Practice Problem #1

Tourism

Practice Problem #2

Practice Problem #2

Urbanization

Qualifying Problem

Qualifying Problem

Antarctica

Affiliate Finals Problem

Affiliate Finals Problem

Autonomous Transportation

International Conference 2025

International Conference 2025

Topic announced March 1, 2025

How We Choose

Real issues engage and inspire learning

By utilizing real issues and embracing the future, we stay relevant in the ever-evolving educational space. To be considered, a topic must be broad enough to appeal to participants living around the globe, offer a range of themes and issues to explore, and be considerate of a variety of views. Lastly, of course, every topic must be accessible for all, from ages 8 to 18.

We welcome submissions of topic ideas from anyone year round. Our topic committee reviews, refines, and categorizes submissions into our diverse strands. Options are narrowed down and screened by our regional affiliate leaders. They pre-select top candidates for each of the category strands to present to our entire global community for a vote. The community’s input, including students, heavily influences the final selection. Topics for the upcoming competition season get announced on March 1.

Problem solving student learning about privacy issue

Submit a Topic

Share your ideas for future competition topics

We welcome ideas for future competition topics from anyone in our global community and accept submissions year round. Given our review process and resource development cycle, it often takes several years for a new topic to reach students.

Featured Articles

Our real world topics are future focused

Visit our Topic Center to see a range of topics representing important recent challenges from business, civics, society, science, and technology.
wordcloud-inforgraphic-future-problem-solving-real-world-issues

50+ years of solving real world challenges

See a comprehensive list of all the Future Problem Solving competition topics from 1974 to today.

train station

Changing with the times: transportation issues

See how Future Problem Solving transportation topic-related challenges evolved through the decades.

plant growing inside a lightbulb

Changing with the times: environmental issues

See how Future Problem Solving environment topic-related challenges evolved through the decades.

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.