By Susan Bromley
.- They began by dealing with educational disparity, then moved on to disentangling gene modification, before clearing up 3D printing, and finally tackling identity theft.
It’s been quite a year for the Brandon Future Problem Solvers and their hard work and efforts have been rewarded— Brandon teams earned first place at the state bowl in both the junior and middle divisions and in all, will send 12 representatives to compete at the FPS International Conference in June in Wisconsin, where they will handle biosecurity.
“They owned it at the state competition,” said Julie Hampel, who co-coaches the teams along with Michelle Tyrrell, Brandon Middle School teacher. “We have five teams this year and they are doing fabulous. It’s really cool.”
While the Future Problem Solving Program was founded in 1974 “to stimulate critical and creative thinking skills, encourage students to develop a vision for the future, and prepare students for leadership roles,” (www.fpspi.org), the extra-curricular program has only been in Brandon for the past five years, after Hampel told her niece, a student in the district, she would coach a team if she found three friends who wanted to participate.
That team, consisting of Hampel’s niece, Mary Katherine Komeshak, as well as Gabrielle Claxton, Grace Montreuil, and Ella Miller, started when they were elementary students, stuck together and this year won first place in the state middle division.
The program grew and they have been joined by siblings and friends, including Isaac Miller, Caleb Thwing, Olivia Hanson, Lauren Komeshak, who took a team first place in the junior division and Emily Roper, Paige Thwing, Payton Fletcher, Nick Bradburn, who took third place in Team Global Issues Problem Solving in the Middle Division. All three teams will compete at internationals at the University of Wisconsin in LaCrosse, June 7-11, working on solving biosecurity.
Hampel explains Future Problem Solvers as using a six-step process designed to teach kids critical thinking skills. Throughout the school year, in teams of four, kids in the program are assigned a topic, each researching the topic on their own, as well as meeting once a week after school, and in competition, which lasts roughly two hours, teams are confined to a room, given a future scene involving that topic, and asked to complete a booklet, coming up with sixteen solutions to the problem before selecting the best solution and writing a final action plan.
This year, teams dealt first with educational disparity. Hampel explains that in regards to this topic, the problem solvers discussed the economic differences between school districts, how success and failure relate to affluence and poverty, and what challenges are related to the problem.
“One of the things our kids wanted to do is make sure affluent school districts werent trading off good things (to achieve equality between districts)— that we could raise the bar for all,” said Hampel. “The solution rested in the fact that less affluent districts would have the bar raised and the more affluent wouldn’t sacrifice anything.”
Gene modification was the next issue tackled in competition, and working on concerns around 3-D printing got them to state competition. Their work on identity theft will now take them to bio-security at the international level.
Isaac and Ella Miller, siblings, are enjoying their success as Future Problem Solvers.
“It’s interesting because you learn about different topics when doing the booklets and I like hanging out with my friends and working as a team,” said Isaac, 10, a fifth grader at Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School. “My writing and reading skills have improved a lot… My favorite problem to research was identity theft— it’s really interesting to learn about how clever some of those scams are and how to stop them. Our solution was to create a DI (Droid Identifier) 2.0, a nanobot, that whenever someone tried to access an account, it would trace where the person accessing the account was. If the person accessing the account wasn’t in the same spot as you, it would notify you and the police.”
Ella, 14 and an eighth grader at Brandon Middle School, said she really liked the identity theft topic as well, as it relates to not just the future, but a problem we are faced with today. Her team was charged with not how to stop identity theft, but how to deal with the aftereffects. Their solution was to present resources for victims, such as experts they could call.
“I’ve really learned how to work with a team and not just as an individual, to research and apply the research,” said Ella. “I was really happy to win. I’ve been doing this for five years.
A lot of work has gone into it and it was really rewarding. I’m excited to go to international competition.”
The Brandon Future Problem Solvers would appreciate any contributions toward helping them get to their international competition in Wisconsin. For more information about how you can help, contact Lisa Kavalhuna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final results for Brandon students who competed at the Future Problem Solvers State Bowl March 25-26 at Michigan State University:
First Place Team Global Issues Problem Solving, Middle Division – (With an invitation to compete at Internationals) Gabrielle Claxton, Grace Montreuil, Ella Miller, Mary Katherine Komeshak
First Place Team Global Issues Problem Solving, Junior Division- (With an invitation to compete at Internationals) Isaac Miller, Caleb Thwing, Olivia Hanson, Lauren Komeshak
Third Place Team Global Issues Problem Solving, Middle Division – (With an invitation to compete at Internationals in Multiple-Affiliate Global Issues Competition) Emily Roper, Paige Thwing, Payton Fletcher, Nick Bradburn
Semi finalist Team Global Issues Problem Solving, Junior Division – Evan Fletcher, Lillian Muehlheim, Lyndsay Claxton, Abigail Muehlheim
- Semi finalist Individual Global Issues Problem Solving, Middle Division – Paige Thwing
First Place Presentation of Final Action Plan, Middle Division – Gabrielle Claxton, Grace Montreuil, Ella Miller, Mary Katherine Komeshak
Second Place Presentation of Final Action Plan, Junior Division – Isaac Miller, Caleb Thwing, Olivia Hanson, Lauren Komeshak
Third Place Presentation of Final Action Plan, Middle Division – Emily Roper, Paige Thwing, Payton Fletcher, Nick Bradburn
Semi Final Round Team Global Issues Problem Solving, Middle Division – Annaliese Elliott, Matt Ressler, Kelsey Nestuck