By Vada Elliott

Three teams from Union Community Schools, two from Union High School and one from Union Middle School, recently competed at the State Future Problem Solvers (FPS) Contest in Ames.
For seniors Payton Sash, Kaitlin Holschlag and Peyton Parker, the contest marked their seventh and final year of future problem solving, while classmate Lizzie Klein has participated in the program four years. The four made the most of their final FPS competition, placing fifth overall.
Future Problem Solving is a program which engages students in creative problem solving and encourages them to develop a vision for the future. This year, students participating in FPS were challenged to address topics such as Educational Disparities, Genes, and 3D Printing. The topic for April’s state contest was Identify Theft.
Future Problem Solving teams consists of four or five students who research the assigned topic and read a fictional scenario, or future scene, based on the topic. The team then uses a six-step process to address the subject matter:


  1. Identify challenges
  2. Select an underlying problem
  3. Produce solution ideas
  4. Generate and select criteria
  5. Apply the criteria
  6. Develop an action plan

At the competition, the team is given no more than two hours to complete a twelve-page packet. The completed packets are then submitted for evaluation and returned with a score, ranking, and recommendations for improvement.
Through participation in Future Problem Solving, students experience the excitement of creative thinking and the challenge of resolving complex problems with unique solutions. Competitions like State FPS allow academically talented students the opportunity to showcase their creative skills in much the same way sports showcase star athletes.