The Stories Behind 3 Unique Student Projects That Solved World Problems
Posted March 14, 2023 by Miranda Marshall
Problem-solving competitions – like Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) – can be an amazing way to encourage students to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to complex, real-world problems. During FPSPI, students have the opportunity to showcase their unique ideas to an even broader audience, considering their submissions come from nearly all grade levels, and from all around the world.
FPSPI participants are always putting their critical thinking skills to the test, but during the June 2022 Conference, some of the projects exemplified such outstanding creative problem-solving that we had to share them with you! Here are some of the student projects that blew us away:
- Billy Joel Boys – New Zealand
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the world in countless ways, especially with changes to our daily routines and social interactions. Many people have struggled with mental health issues due to the pandemic’s impact on their lives. In response to this, a group of students from Francis Douglas Memorial College came up with an innovative way to improve the mental well-being of their community: by installing public pianos in their community.
Research has shown that music can have a positive impact on mental health. Listening to music can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and even enhance cognitive performance. Playing music can also provide an outlet for emotional expression and a sense of achievement.
The Billy Joel Boys gave people a truly unique way to improve their moods, and even took their concept to the next level by customizing the instruments. One of the pianos featured a wooden dragon’s head attached to it. Another doubled as a shelter, constructed in collaboration with the Fitzroy men’s shed team.
View their presentation here.
- Envision Change – Kentucky, USA
Technology is interwoven into our everyday lives, which means that accessibility is more important now than ever. Thankfully, groups like the Envision Change team from Bell County High School in Kentucky are working hard that the standards set by the American Disability Act (ADA) are not only met, but exceeded, so that visually impaired students can receive an exceptional quality education.
When researching laws regarding ADA compliance, the students behind Envision Change found that these laws can be tricky to understand, which can lead to them being implemented improperly or not at all. They evaluated areas for improvement in their school and decided to work with the Board of Education to obtain funding for accommodations such as braille, tactile tape, and reflective tape.
Envision Change also implemented fundraisers and planned events like White Cane Day to raise awareness for the struggles facing visually impaired people in their community, and to show people how to interact with them. Through these efforts, the students raised $3,500, which was donated to the Kentucky School for the Blind Charitable Foundation.
By going beyond the basics of ADA compliance and conducting outreach in their community, these students are truly on their way to creating an inclusive environment where people of all abilities feel welcome and supported.
See their story here.
- Project Eutrophication Evasion – Texas, USA
Eutrophication is a significant environmental issue that affects many communities around the world, including Pearland, where the students of Glenda Dawson High School conducted their investigation — Project Eutrophication Evasion.
Eutrophication occurs when excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus enter a water system, leading to excessive algae growth, oxygen depletion, and other environmental problems. Noticing an excessive amount of algal blooms in the area, the students behind Project Eutrophication Evasion decided to see what they could do to help. They conducted water tests, surveys, and interviews with environmental experts to identify the extent of the problem.
One of the first steps the team took was to start weekly cleanups of local waterways such as Mary’s Creek to help remove debris and trash that could lead to the accumulation of nutrients and other pollutants. These efforts could not only help prevent eutrophication, but also improve the overall health of local waterways.
The team also planted native plants along the waterways to intercept fertilizer runoff and create a natural barrier that helps absorb excess nutrients and pollutants. Fertilizer is one of the primary contributors to eutrophication, so reducing its runoff into local waterways is crucial to combat the issue.
In addition to their work to improve the health of local waterways, the team distributed information to the community to improve eutrophication awareness. They used social media and events to spread the word about the problem and educate the community about the solutions they were implementing and how everyone can help.
See their work here.
Academic competitions are an excellent way to encourage students to think creatively and to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems. The ideas that students come up with can be truly inspiring, and it is a privilege to be able to witness their enthusiasm and dedication firsthand.
All of these students, and many more taking part in FPSPI, have gone above and beyond to come up with solutions to problems that many of us can relate to that are not only creative, but also practical. Projects like these prove that anyone, at any age, can make a real positive difference in the world.
We continue to be inspired by young people’s commitment to making the world a better place. We have no doubt that these students will go on to do great things in their future endeavors, and we look forward to seeing the impact they – and others like them – will have on our world!
Want to learn more about how you can get involved with FPSPI? Coaches/parents and students in grades 4 through 12 are invited to register for the FPS Experience during the 2023 International Conference at UMass Amherst. This is a non-competitive experience that introduces students to the Future Problem Solving process and gives them access to all of the amazing events and activities taking place!