In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) hosted the World Solutions Challenge, a unique problem-solving competition that engaged students from across the globe. The Challenge, centered around the prominent topic of artificial intelligence (AI), inspired students to develop an array of creative solutions aimed at addressing critical issues within this rapidly evolving field.

This in-demand program completely sold out, receiving a staggering 95 entries from locations spanning the United States, as well as other countries including Australia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates—an incredible turnout that truly showcased the global impact of FPSPI and their World Solutions Challenge.

During the World Solutions Challenge, participants ranging from grades 5 through 9, had to immerse themselves in the world of artificial intelligence and devise inventive solutions to some of its core shortcomings. The competition unfolded over a rigorous two-week period, during which students delved into research and writing, showcasing their critical thinking skills. The ideas that these students came up with are a true testament to the power of future generations to tackle the difficult problems we’re grappling with today as technology continues to advance.

Securing the top spot in the competition was Sierra E, a one-student team from California, whose solution stood out for its thoroughness and practicality. Sierra crafted a “Source Facts” sheet, a tool designed to assess the credibility of AI-generated information in internet searches. This approach not only highlighted Sierra’s acute understanding of the challenges posed by AI but also made us think more deeply about the importance of critical evaluation in an era dominated by digital information.

The second-place award went to a team from New York, comprised of Rachel C, William L, and Arsal M. Their solution, titled “PROTECT AI Toggle,” focused on enhancing the pillars of P- Privacy, R – Responsive, O – Operational, T – Technology, E – Ensuring, C – Customer, T – Trust. This comprehensive approach demonstrated a holistic understanding of the multifaceted issues surrounding AI, showcasing the team’s dedication to creating a well-rounded solution.

Rounding off the top three were Abby A, Jonna G, Sage M, and Julia W from Washington, whose “Truthfinder” tackled the challenge of improving the reliability of AI-generated search results. By focusing on increasing the amount of trustworthy information retrieved by AI, this team showcased a commitment to ensuring that technology serves as a reliable ally in our quest for information.

To provide a glimpse into the hard work and creative solutions developed by all the participants in the World Solutions Challenge, we encourage you to check out this highlight reel video featuring student work. We’re sure you’ll be amazed by their dedication and brilliance—we sure were!

As Future Problem Solving continues to empower young minds with programs designed to encourage creativity and problem-solving skills, don’t miss your chance to take advantage of their amazing offerings. Whether you’re a student, teacher, or parent at any grade level around the world, there are so many opportunities to get involved! From global issues and community challenges, to scenario writing and performances, FPSPI provides a platform for students to hone cross-curricular skills while making a positive impact on the world.

Join us in celebrating the success of the World Solutions Challenge winners and be inspired to explore the limitless possibilities that FPSPI offers. Visit to learn more about FPSPI’s programs and discover how you or your student(s) can be a part of shaping the future through innovative problem-solving.

From solving complex algebra problems to investigating scientific theories, to making inferences about written texts, problem-solving is central to every subject explored in school. Even beyond the classroom, problem-solving is ranked among the most important skills for students to demonstrate on their resumes, with 82.9% of employers considering it a highly valued attribute. On an even broader scale, students who learn how to apply their problem-solving skills to the issues they notice in their communities – or even globally –  have the tools they need to change the future and leave a lasting impact on the world around them.

Problem-solving can be taught in any content area and can even combine cross-curricular concepts to connect learning from all subjects. On top of building transferrable skills for higher education and beyond, read on to learn more about five amazing benefits students will gain from the inclusion of problem-based learning in their education:


  1. Problem-solving is inherently student-centered.

Student-centered learning refers to methods of teaching that recognize and cater to students’ individual needs. Students learn at varying paces, have their own unique strengths, and even further, have their own interests and motivations – and a student-centered approach recognizes this diversity within classrooms by giving students some degree of control over their learning and making them active participants in the learning process.

Incorporating problem-solving into your curriculum is a great way to make learning more student-centered, as it requires students to engage with topics by asking questions and thinking critically about explanations and solutions, rather than expecting them to absorb information in a lecture format or through wrote memorization.


  1. Increases confidence and achievement across all school subjects.

As with any skill, the more students practice problem-solving, the more comfortable they become with the type of critical and analytical thinking that will carry over into other areas of their academic careers. By learning how to approach concepts they are unfamiliar with or questions they do not know the answers to, students develop a greater sense of self-confidence in their ability to apply problem-solving techniques to other subject areas, and even outside of school in their day-to-day lives.

The goal in teaching problem-solving is for it to become second nature, and for students to routinely express their curiosity, explore innovative solutions, and analyze the world around them to draw their own conclusions.


  1. Encourages collaboration and teamwork.

Since problem-solving often involves working cooperatively in teams, students build a number of important interpersonal skills alongside problem-solving skills. Effective teamwork requires clear communication, a sense of personal responsibility, empathy and understanding for teammates, and goal setting and organization – all of which are important throughout higher education and in the workplace as well.


  1. Increases metacognitive skills.

Metacognition is often described as “thinking about thinking” because it refers to a person’s ability to analyze and understand their own thought processes. When making decisions, metacognition allows problem-solvers to consider the outcomes of multiple plans of action and determine which one will yield the best results.

Higher metacognitive skills have also widely been linked to improved learning outcomes and improved studying strategies. Metacognitive students are able to reflect on their learning experiences to understand themselves and the world around them better.


  1. Helps with long-term knowledge retention.

Students who learn problem-solving skills may see an improved ability to retain and recall information. Specifically, being asked to explain how they reached their conclusions at the time of learning, by sharing their ideas and facts they have researched, helps reinforce their understanding of the subject matter.

Problem-solving scenarios in which students participate in small-group discussions can be especially beneficial, as this discussion gives students the opportunity to both ask and answer questions about the new concepts they’re exploring.


At all grade levels, students can see tremendous gains in their academic performance and emotional intelligence when problem-solving is thoughtfully planned into their learning.

Interested in helping your students build problem-solving skills, but aren’t sure where to start? Future Problem Solving Problem International (FPSPI) is an amazing academic competition for students of all ages, all around the world, that includes helpful resources for educators to implement in their own classrooms!

Learn more about this year’s competition season from this recorded webinar: and/or email to get started!

June 5th-9th, over 1,600 students from elementary to high school gathered both in-person and virtually at Future Problem Solving Program International’s (FPSPI) International Conference to compete in variety of challenges addressing antibiotic resistance. Our very own CEO, Josh Neubert, even attended to check out some of the amazing work done by FPSPI students and present during the opening ceremony. We wanted to give a huge shout out and congratulations to the many talented students who participated!

FPSPI is all about emphasizing the importance of creative and critical thinking and decision-making by teaching students how to approach problem-solving – not telling them what to think. Through FPSPI competitions, students learn and practice a clear and logical approach that they can use in any type of creative problem-solving scenario throughout their lives. From environmental and social issues, to travel, technology, and medicine, FPSPI has covered a wide range of interesting and relevant topics that students can really explore and take ownership of.

The IC 2022 Future Scene challenged students to come up with new ways to detect environmental pollution and reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria circulating through water and soil in Tasmania’s cherry orchards. Their projects address concerns the Tasmanian government may have about the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria during farming, all while considering the importance of cherry yield for the Tasmanian economy.

During the International Conference (IC) students were recognized in the following categories:

PAP (Presentations of Action Plan)

Students from all divisions – Junior, Middle, and Senior – developed their PAP submissions in response to the IC 2022 Future Scene. Check out the presentations from one of the first-place teams at time stamp 42:00 during the IC Awards Ceremony video. This team’s plan involved killing bacteria with rays of UV light from Drone UV admitters (DUV) on a predetermined flight plan!

Multi-Affiliate Global Issues Problem Solving Competition (MAGIC)

The MAGIC contest took place on-site during the International Conference, which allowed students from around the world to collaborate with one another. Competitors were randomly assigned to teams based on division and worked together with other students from different states and countries to complete a handwritten booklet (similar to the Global Issues Problem Solving competition). The MAGIC booklet included eight challenges, eight solution ideas, and a shortened grid for students to complete within two hours.

Scenario Performance (ScP)

Students competing in the Scenario Performance category developed and acted out stories based on their future projections about antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Their performances were evaluated based on their storytelling technique, audience awareness, use of voice, development of story, characterization, creative and futuristic thinking, and overall connection to the topic.

Scenario Writing (SW)

Scenario Writing competitors also got creative by writing original futuristic short stories about their projections about the same topic. Their written works were assessed on creative and forward thinking, idea and character development, style/voice, mechanics, research, and how well they were able to entertain and inform the audience about antibiotic resistance in their Future Scene.

Community Problem Solving (CmPS)

The 361 students who took part in the Community Problem Solving competition addressed an area of concern from their own communities. By providing a framework to move beyond traditional service learning, students apply the problem-solving process to identify and address local, state, national or global issues that result in measurable outcomes. On-site students prepared their displays for evaluation at the International Conference.

Global Issues Problem Solving (GIPS)

The Global Issues Problem Solving category allows both teams and individuals to respond to the Future Scene using the Six-Step Process. 835 students completed in-depth research about Antibiotic Resistance before the competition started.  Students involved in GIPS practice powerful problem-solving skills that engage their critical and creative thinking. Hundreds of creative solutions were presented on to address the Future Scene! Check out the final results of each competition here.

Want to get involved in future FPSPI competitions? Parents, educators, and students from all around the world are invited to participate in categories like the ones from the 2022 International Conference! Learn more about the different types of competitions here, or find an FPSPI Affiliate to get started.

Each year, students in grades 4-12 around the world convene at Future Problem Solving Program International’s (FPSPI) International Conference to take part in events and workshops, brainstorm scenarios, collaborate with groups to complete creative problem-solving exercises, and learn from experts during presentations and Q&A sessions.

Additionally, Community Problem Solving competitors have the chance to showcase their projects from the past year both in-person and online, displaying and celebrating their solutions to issues facing their local communities.

This year, over 1,800 brilliant young minds will be attending the hybrid event beginning on June 9th, 2022 to tackle an important challenge facing the future of global health care – antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria undergo mutations that render antibiotic medicines ineffective against them. This means that doctors must continuously develop new drugs to treat patients with resistant infections, as well as to preserve the usefulness of existing antibiotic drugs.

There are many factors that contribute to the rising emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including over-prescription of antibiotic drugs, environmental pollution and poor pollution controls, agricultural misuse, and poor patient adherence to treatment instruction. Today, antibiotics are not only in medications, but also in food sources and plastics, creating more and more opportunities for antibiotic resistant microorganisms to develop.

In the United States alone, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur every year, leading to over 35,000 deaths. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has only contributed to creating conditions that may have reversed our progress on antibiotic resistance. Staffing shortages, record high numbers of patients, and longer hospital stays during the pandemic have led to increased difficulties implementing infection control practices.

The World Health Organization warns that, “While there are some new antibiotics in development, none of them are expected to be effective against the most dangerous forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Given the ease and frequency with which people now travel, antibiotic resistance is a global problem, requiring efforts from all nations and many sectors.”

FPSPI Global Issues Problem Solving and Scenario competitors will have the chance to tackle this incredibly relevant and important issue during the International Conference by researching all aspects of antibiotic resistance in preparation for challenges where they will need to analyze and address futuristic scenarios centered around the topic. Winners will be announced during the awards ceremony on June 12th, 2022.

To learn more about FPSPI’s International Conference, check out the readings, schedule, and more here.  To learn more about the antibiotic resistance topic, check out FPSPI’s video and resources here.

Stay tuned for more updates about the amazing work FPSPI students are doing with their research and writing during the 2022 Hybrid International Conference!

If there is one thing we all have had in common in recent times – it’s change. Around the globe, individuals, communities, and societies continue to feel the lasting impact of COVID-19 on mental, financial, and physical health, but students taking part in Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) have met these challenges with innovative solutions that are not only changing lives for the better, but also changing the world.

The FPSPI is a dynamic international program focused on empowering students around the globe to become better creative and critical thinkers, problem solvers, and decision makers. Students can be a part of programs ranging from Global Issues Problem Solving and Community Problem Solving, to smaller scale in-classroom assignments like Scenario Performance, where they develop a story about their future projections; Scenario Writing, where they write an original work of fiction about their future projections; and Action-Based Problem Solving, where teachers work with their students to solve a creative problem.

From civic and social issues to environmental and health concerns, FPSPI participants have enacted programs and initiatives to combat the most pressing issues in their communities, and we are excited to share some of the greatest success stories from the 2021 Virtual International Conference! Read on to learn more about the ways Future Problem Solving students have changed the future.


Young Minds Making an Impact

From grades 4 to 6, Junior Division participants are the youngest FPSPI competitors, but their projects work to solve issues we all can relate to. In Australia, for example, one team founded The STRESS (Students Teaching Resilience to End Significant Stress) Project, a group that works to build resilience and coping mechanisms to better deal with stress in their school community.

Young innovators in Singapore also focused on bolstering important emotional and psychological skills in the form of empathy after they noticed that this important emotional intelligence (EQ) skill has been on the decline for over a decade. Students in Florida also helped mend loneliness among assisted living residents during the pandemic by hosting activities over Zoom with their S.M.I.L.E. (Students Making an Impact on the Lives of Elderly) program.

Beyond helping people cope with mental health issues and build more positive relationships, Future Problem Solving participants in Texas worked to:

– Address the oil industry crisis in their home state by holding a monthly farmer’s market to boost the local economy.

– Reduce school food waste by creating their own composting program!

Local Heroes

Middle Division champions (those in grades 7 to 9) delved deep into some of the most prevalent issues in their cities, counties, and even countries. Some teams tackled COVID-19 related problems like social and educational isolation with solutions like:

– The Big Sisters program in Australia, dedicated to interacting with younger students to help their emotional well-being.

Project Everyone in Florida, which created opportunities for all students – remote, in-person, and hybrid – to participate in the social activities that are so central to academic life.

Also in-tune with the importance of their education, Project REMOTE (Reimagining Educational and Meaningful Opportunities To Engage) in Massachusetts helped Canton learners gain access to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) resources.

Other students focused on environmental and health concerns with projects like:

– Florida’s O.C.E.A.N. (Operation Conserve Earth’s Aquatic Nature) designed to educate the community and reduce harm to aquatic ecosystems.

– Turkey’s team of “Climate Protectors”, who aimed to spread awareness of the causes and consequences of climate change.

– The “Don’t JUUL, It’s Not CUUL” project in Minnesota, which advocated for stricter regulations and more consumer education to reduce vaping among teens.

Providing Hope, Healing, and Mental Health

FPSPI competitors who gained recognition in the Senior Division, for students in grades 10 to 12, looked to improve the future by positioning individuals and their families for success.

Project HYPE (Helping Youth Pursue Education) in California helped provide education resources to low income students in San Diego.

BY2 Be Yourself Brand Yourself in Florida taught young people how to leverage social media for positivity and networking.

Operation HOPE in Kentucky combatted poverty by distributing care boxes and improving agency communication.

Internationally, Project Helios in Singapore worked with Singapore Association of Mental Health to combat mental illness, and Project Integrate in Singapore improved the lives of migrant workers with virtual lessons and other resources.

However, with so much room for creative problem solving in Future Problem Solving Program International, other winners devised solutions for a wide variety of global issues.

– Project Curae in Singapore aimed to dismantle the stigma surrounding dementia.

Project Yes, Learn! In Texas provided virtual camps during school breaks for students.

Raising Awareness About Earthquakes in Turkey helped raise awareness for earthquake safety.


Interested in learning more about how students are changing the future through Future Problem Solving Program International? Find out how to get involved, support the mission, or use FPSPI to supplement your classroom activities here: Future Problem Solving Program International (


Educational competitions were no exception to those having to pivot from live events to virtual events due to the pandemic. Many competitions were left with the choice last year to cancel their culminating conferences and events of the competition season or quickly adapt their programs to the virtual space. The following educational competitions not only engage participants to solve incredible problems but have taken lemons and made lemonade by bringing about some outstanding virtual conferences and symposiums for their finalist teams to compete.

Check out these competitions making waves with their programs and upcoming virtual events!


Future Problem Solving Program International Conference 2021: Neurotechnology

June 9th – 14th, 2021

Visit Event Website

Future Problem Solving Program International’s (FPSPI) VIRTUAL International Conference will host over 2,200 problem-solvers from around the globe. The Opening Ceremony on June 10th, 2021 will kick off this annual event!

Champion problem solvers who have earned their spot at the International Conference will have the opportunity to virtually compete with others from around the world and will have access to many virtual collaborative experiences as well as their specific competitions. Several speakers will share sessions with students and collaborative sessions include such events as the Coach Connection, Senior Forum, Parent Meeting, and CmPS Tips and Tools.

These 4th-12th grade students have displayed futuristic thinking and the creative problem-solving process; local qualifying competitions earned them a coveted invitation to the conference. Through its programs, FPSPI prepares these students to be tomorrow’s leaders, ready to solve global problems. Global Issues Problem Solving and Scenario competitors arrive equipped to tackle potential neurotechnology problems set in the near future. These teams and individuals must research all aspects of the topic to be prepared for competitive events where a futuristic scenario will be analyzed and addressed.

Details on the topic can be found here.

Community Problem Solving is showcased in a featured event, displaying projects spanning the past year. For these student-driven projects, the participants designed a project to serve an identified need in their community. The Community Problem Solving Showcase will feature videos and posters on the FPSPI’s virtual online platform. Their YouTube channel will also feature student projects so the public can admire these dynamic youth and learn about the change they enacted.



Modeling the Future Challenge 2021 Symposium

April 22 -23rd, 2021

Visit Event Website

The Modeling the Future Challenge (MTFC) Symposium will virtually host the top 12 finalist teams to join leading actuaries, scientists, and business leaders from across the actuarial industry. An opening ceremony and keynote on April 22nd, 2021 will kick off the event. Students will then present their projects via pre-recorded videos to a live panel of actuary judges who evaluate the projects and select the four teams who will receive their part of a $60,000 award purse! 

The MTFC by the Actuarial Foundation and managing partner, the Institute of Competition Sciences, tasks students with identifying and characterizing current or future risks, and using mathematics to make the best recommendations for how to manage or respond to those risks.

The 2020-21 MTFC launched an “open theme” for the challenge in which students got to choose their own project topic, similar in structure to science fairs. They then followed the Actuarial Process, designed to guide students through the stages of identifying a project topic and completing their research report for the MTFC like actuaries do for their companies and clients.

The MTFC virtual symposium is a one-of-a-kind experience for students who have a chance to participate in career sessions, problem-solving activities, icebreaker trivia events, and other unique experiences from their partners. At the conclusion of the Symposium, four teams will walk away with college scholarships, but all the students will have an amazing experience encouraging them to continue pursuing mathematics and data science in their own futures.


The Plant the Moon Challenge Spring Summit

April 28th – 29th, 2021

Visit Event Website

NASA scientists, Space Grant Consortiums, and other experts join the Plant the Moon Challenge (PTMC) for a virtual display of final presentations and best-in-show awards on April 29th-30th, 2021. This event will be the inaugural finalist summit for the Plant the Moon Challenge!

The PTMC is produced by the Institute of Competition Sciences in partnership with Exolith Labs – the competition is a global science experiment, learning activity, and inspirational project-based-learning challenge to see who can grow the best crops using lunar regolith simulant.

Participants in the Plant the Moon Challenge will join this experiment and research challenge to examine how vegetable crops can grow in lunar soil. Each team will receive real lunar soil simulant from the University of Central Florida’s CLASS Exolith Labs! Teams will design and conduct a set of experiments using this lunar simulant to grow crops for a future long-duration lunar mission.

Teams will use a custom-designed Project Guide to help define their own experimental parameters such as the structure of the plant growth setup, amount of water used, and nutrients or fertilizer added to the lunar simulant to support plant growth. After a 10-week growing period, they submit final project reports and join the global network of researchers helping to expand the world’s lunar exploration capabilities!

All participants with completed projects will be invited to showcase their projects at the virtual symposium with NASA scientists, program executives, and other dignitaries where Best-in-Show awards will be presented to teams with the best experiments.




If you are interested in any of the competitions and events above or you’d like to learn about others, head to our competitions page to see what academic competitions are coming up. Set up your account to follow competitions that excite you and stay up-to-date on all the news with academic competitions.

Upgrade to a premium account so you can track your progress in competitions, get insider information on academic competitions, access the I.C.S. competitions concierge, and gain exclusive discounts on ICS-managed programs


Critical-thinking skills are crucial for students to thrive in the 21st century business world. Unfortunately, this is also one of those skills that is not a direct part of many school curriculums. Students often can only learn critical-thinking by going beyond the traditional classroom and participating in academic competitions and challenges that engage them in unique problem solving situations.

By putting themselves out there, taking risks, and being put into situations that require problem-solving and critical-thinking students better prepare themselves for the “real-world.”

While schools do their best to equip students with these skills, the classroom’s controlled environment is a difficult place for students to take the calculated risks that teach critical thinking. That’s why many students are turning to academic competitions to fill in the gaps of their education and learn those valuable lessons that will serve them into adulthood. However, not every academic competition teaches critical-thinking skills in the same way.

Because “critical-thinking” captures such a diversity of skills itself, we wanted to explore how the leading academic competitions teach students critical-thinking skills on their own. Here are a few examples of competitions that help students in this life lesson.




Future Problem Solving Program International

Our featured program is a long-standing stalwart of critical-thinking and creativity. The Future Problem Solving Program’s goal is to get kids thinking about their vision for the future. It also works to prepare them for leadership roles where they will drive change and lead others to innovative thinking. This is a 4-part challenge that includes:

  • Community Problem Solving
  • Global Issues Problem Solving
  • Scenario Writing
  • Scenario Performance

Creating real change in your community takes a lot of planning and follow-through. From identifying a problem, coming up with a solution, and getting in touch with the appropriate community members, students will have to exercise their critical thinking skills in every aspect of this program.

The comprehensive structure of the Future Problem Solving Program provides a great, well-rounded way of educating students on critical-thinking challenges at all stages of the problem-solving process.

In addition to the skills they will hone, students will also gain valuable experience for their college applications and the opportunity to work with their peers and professionally present their ideas to industry leaders.



While the FPS program may be the most well-rounded competition students can engage their critical thinking caps in, other programs teach critical-thinking skills in unique formats that may help inspire learning in specific areas.

The Modeling the Future Challenge (MTFC)

This academic competition offers students the opportunity to hone their risk management skills by teaching them the Actuarial Process. Much like the scientific method, this process gives kids a system they can utilize any time they need to analyze risk. From start to finish, the Actuarial Process and the Modeling the Future Challenge offer students the opportunity to think for themselves and exercise their critical-thinking skills.

The MTFC helps students learn to use data and mathematical analysis in critical-thinking.


Autonomous Aerial Vehicle Tournament

In this academic tournament, students program drones to complete specific tasks alongside other students. Each student is responsible for their own drown, and the participant that best completes the task wins. Since every student competes on the same playing field, they need to use critical-thinking skills to determine the best way for their drone to complete the required task before they can even begin programming.

The Autonomous Aerial Vehicle Tournament helps students learn critical-thinking from an engineering perspective to better solve technical challenges.

Best Robotics Challenge 

This competition is as fun as it is educational. To compete, students will design a robot that can perform specific tasks and make it through a field of obstacles on tournament day. With every student competing on the same course, the winners will have to think outside the box and demonstrate excellent critical thinking skills to come out on top.

Best Robotics focuses student critical thinking in a unique robotics environment – encouraging students to think how to solve a challenge from a unique perspective.


Academic challenges like those listed above are an excellent way for students to embrace the subjects they love while also learning crucial life skills like critical-thinking. For a comprehensive program that incorporates critical-thinking into all aspects of the problem-solving process, check out the Future Problem Solving Program.

For students with special interests in data analysis, mathematical modeling, engineering, or robotics, check out our other recommendations.

And don’t forget to head to our competitions page to see what academic competitions are coming up, and find programs that are unique to your interests and needs. Set up your account to follow competitions that excite you and stay up to date on all the news with academic competitions.

Upgrade to a premium account so you can track your progress in competitions, get insider information on academic competitions, access the ICS competitions concierge, and gain exclusive discounts on ICS-managed programs.

The Future Problem Solving Program includes four competitive challenges: Community Problem Solving, Global Issues Problem Solving, Scenario Writing, and Scenario Performance. All four are designed to allow students to work together to make the world we live in a better place.

Students are encouraged to think about the world around them, gather information to fully understand the situation, and come up with multiple solutions to the problems they see. Then students will choose the best plan of action and see what it takes to enact real change in the world. This often brings important lessons about working in the community and what it takes to collaborate with others for the common good.

While 2020 was a challenging year for us all, the 2020 International Conference participants did not disappoint. Teams and individuals worked harder than ever to bring many positive changes to their communities. Here is a look at some of the inspiring projects from last year:

Necessary Skills for Life: These students noticed that the education system was not adequately preparing students for their futures and decided to do something about it. They banded together with local community members to come up with a solution. Because of the work of The Duff-Allen Central Elementary School CmPS team, life skills such as sewing, cooking, and finances are now being offered in their community.

Project SMILE (Seniors Matter In Life Every Day): Many seniors have been left isolated without the knowledge of technology to navigate the digital world we live in. Project SMILE has worked hard to end this within their community. They now have organized events to socially engage lonely seniors and teach them how to thrive with technology.

Keeping Children Safe Online: Internet safety is a huge issue as more and more of our lives gets moved online. Students are spending more time with remote learning than ever online, and team iSAFE (Internet Safety for Everyone) has come up with a solution. They have worked with many local schools and organizations to hold workshops to educate parents and students on internet safety. Many parents are unaware of what their students can access, and if they do know, they aren’t sure what to do about it. These workshops have been well received in the community and are making great strides in spreading awareness.

Kindness is Key: Students can sometimes be unkind to anyone who is different. To create empathy and understanding, Kindness is Key is helping others understand the neurologically different students within their school. They are also taking it a step further and giving students with neurological differences opportunities to work within the school setting to break barriers and get-to-know their community.

Operation H.O.P.E (Hawks Out Preventing Exploitation): Over 40.3 million people are affected by human trafficking every year. Operation H.O.P.E has collaborated with their local communities to bring resources to combat human trafficking in Metro-Detroit. They have also organized events to provide food, clothes, and toiletries to human trafficking survivors trying to get their lives back.

As you can see, the 2020 Future Problem Solving Program participants have worked together to develop some fantastic solutions to problems plaguing their communities. While these projects have made our world a better place, they have also taught each participant what it feels like to make a difference and given them real-world experience in what it takes to make change happen.

Are there any problems in your community that require real change? Start thinking NOW about how to get involved for next year’s events.

Learn more about the Future Problem Solving Program and how to get your students involved!


Head to our competitions page to see what academic competitions are coming up. Set up your account to follow competitions that excite you and stay up-to-date on all the news with academic competitions.

Upgrade to a premium account so you can track your progress in competitions, get insider information on academic competitions, access the ICS competitions concierge, and gain exclusive discounts on ICS-managed programs.


Critical thinking is possibly the single most important skill a student can learn. The ability to identify problems, analyze situations, apply research, and develop solutions is an invaluable skillset in any career. For as important a skill as it is, critical thinking is often left out of core curriculum. Frequently, students are often taught facts and figures but not how to analyze data and apply knowledge. In other words, students are taught what to think rather than how to think. Fortunately, teachers have the ability to inspire curiosity and critical thinking in their students, both in and out of the classroom.

The development of critical thinking skills is a predictor for student outcomes, higher education retention, and career success. Educators can incorporate activities into their daily lessons that foster research, analytical, and problem-solving skills. TEDEd, PBS Learning, and Edutopia offer lesson plans, media, and other resources to promote critical thinking skills in your students.

One of our ICS partners focuses specific attention on the skills needed to foster critical thinking and teaching students how to think. The Future Problem Solving Program (FPSP) offers opportunities for students to develop critical thinking skills through problem-solving based competitions and curricula. All FPSP components are centered around understanding and solving some of the most pressing international issues, like food waste, criminal justice systems, artificial intelligence, propaganda, and much more. By participating in FPSP, students won’t just learn how to think; they’ll confront and devise solutions to real-world issues that are relevant to their lives and futures. 



Tips from Winning FPSP Coaches

We asked teachers who coached winning teams in the FPSP for their best advice for educators who want to increase their skills in teaching critical thinking and helping their students learn “how to think.” Jill Stone, coach for the Paris Independent School District in Texas, and Christine Parmley and Chris Kealy, coaches for Mount Horeb School District in Wisconsin, shared their tips, tricks, and lessons learned from their winning seasons of the FPSP. Here are the top tips they recommend for other educators:

(1) Get creative in encouraging creative thinking 
“One of our favorite activities [to push “out of the box” thinking] is to have them find a research article about the topic, read it critically, and make notes of possible challenges, key verb phrases, and solutions. We then ask them to take those potential solutions and “tweak” them in a futuristic and creative manner while still having plausibility.” – Jill Stone

“We also work together to brainstorm different topics and ideas as well as sharpen our critical thinking skills with logic puzzles and games, STEM challenges, and SCAMPER.” – Christine Parmley and Chris Kealy.

Note: SCAMPER is a tool to promote creative thinking that stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse.


(2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
“I would tell those that are new to the competition to not be afraid of reaching out to other affiliate coaches for advice and lesson ideas. Know that it will be time-consuming and frustrating at times.  However, the growth you will see not only in your students but in yourself will be worth every second.”  – Jill Stone

“It takes time to really understand and get to know the process. Practice, practice, practice. The feedback from evaluators is valuable, and spending a lot of time reviewing feedback and applying suggestions and comments is helpful.” – Christine Parmley and Chris Kealy 


(3) Help your students rise to the challenge
“Students are often given information and told exactly what to do in order to get a specific answer. This time there is no specific answer, it is all about the method and the process.  We have had students tell us after graduating that it has given them an advantage as they work with others in a problem-solving environment.” – Christine Parmley and Chris Kealy

“The pandemic was the biggest hurdle to overcome this year. The prospect of travel is of course part of the appeal of the competition. With that off the table, it was all intrinsic motivation. We told them that continuing the competition would strengthen them not only as a student but as a person. A dependable person will keep going and see a commitment through. They rallied like never before. The sense of accomplishment was so much greater and spoke volumes about their character.” – Jill Stone


Any teacher can take this tips and put them to work with their students. Joining the Future Problem Solving Program is one of the best ways to nurture these skills with your students. You can also learn about other competitions on our competitions page to see what academic competitions are coming up. Set up your account to follow competitions that excite you and stay up-to-date on all the news with academic competitions.

Remember that you can also upgrade to a premium account so you can have more tools to track your progress in competitions, get insider information on academic competitions, access the ICS competitions concierge, and gain exclusive discounts on ICS-managed programs.