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The City Journals

Kids Solve The Problems Of Tomorrow Today

Aug 01, 2015 12:33PM ● By Lewi Lewis

Ella Sjoblom of Holladay has competed and placed in the Future Problem Solving Program International competition the last two years

The problems we will face in the future are unlimited and unquantifiable, but the elucidation of those problems should begin today. The ability to do so lies within the faculty to teach young children action-based problem solving: how to think critically and creatively now for use in the future … at least, that’s the idea behind the Future Problem Solving Program International or FPSPI. 

The FPSPI, in order to minimize memorization, presents future scenario topics to participants, giving the kids a six-step problem-solving process to come up with a plan to solve the presented future problem.

“FPSPI is an interdisciplinary program that teaches kids how to think, not what to think,” Jill Powlick, and FPS coach and patent attorney for Biofire. “They need to develop some fluency with the topic, but they don’t need to memorize long lists of facts.” 

Twelve-year-old Ella Sjoblom, a Morningside Magnet Elementary graduate, learned about the FPSPI while in the fifth grade when her teacher, Lynda Davis, had the entire class participate in the four-team junior competition.

Although the team did not advance to the state level, Davis prompted Ella, who showed an aptness for writing, to enter the individual competition in 2014. She took first place in the GIPS [Global Issues Problem Solving]; the topic was space exploration. 

“The company was called Overon. They were a space exploration giant and they were planning on settling on this moon of Uranus, and were going to build a colony there because there was some sort of ice pack or water underneath the surface and they thought it could sustain life,” Ella said. “The problem was that it would take too much time to get people out there and then get all the things that they need out there ... my solution was to use hydroponics to grow food and sustain livestock while supplies are being shipped.”

This year Ella took second, not bad at all considering the weightiness of the topic: Intellectual Property.

“Every week we went and learned about intellectual properties [from Powlick] … it was really hard to learn and understand it,” Ella said. 

Powlick described the future scene that was given to the kids. It involved an inventor who came up with a treatment for ALS, which he patented globally. “After his death, his family sold the patent rights,” Powlick said. “That company is trying to avoid a financial agreement involving patent royalties because it built a treatment center on the moon using 3D printers.”

Ella tried explaining the solution that took her to second place, but instead laughed and said, “It was pretty hard to learn about … really hard to understand.”

FPSPI is a program that encourages and pushes kids to think with reason, creativity and to look at the world around them and realize that the problems of today will be the problems of tomorrow, and it is up to them to be the future leaders by knowing how to find solutions. 

 “We welcome new participants in FPS. There will be a training for new coaches in September. You can like us on Facebook at Utah Future Problem Solving and you will receive information on the new coach training,” Powlick said, adding, “I love this program.”