FPS team claims state championship

The Future Problem Solvers team won first place in the senior division of the state competition March 18-21 at the Wyndham Orlando Resort, and the group, coached by reading teacher Kathy Thayer and formed by freshman Esha Bansal and sophomores Will Clifton, Ilana Krause and Sam Lack, advanced to state after claiming first place at the Space Coast district competition in late February.

“State was such an incredible experience. It was really emotional because our team worked so hard for this, and it really paid off,” Krause said. “Now we have to start preparing for internationals in Indiana.”

Clifton saidpractice was key when it came to the achieving the team’s ultimate success at the competition.

“The whole thing was just a blast,” Clifton said. “We basically prepared for hours on hours beforehand, and our time finally paid off.”

Nerves were running high at the awards ceremony held Wednesday as team members kept their fingers crossed.

“The awards ceremony was so nerve-wracking because they call up the teams who ranked 10th to second, and so if you don’t get called, you either won first or didn’t win at all,” Krause said. “So there was definitely doubt lingering.”

Lack said he was a bit surprised with the outcome.

“Winning the competition was really a thrill,” he said. “We knew we had done really well, but we didn’t know we had done that well.”

Krause detailed the basic structure of Future Problem Solvers, which includes multiple categories and allots each team a given amount of time to create a solution to a presented issue.

“FPS consists of many different competitions,” Krause said. “[Our team] competes in global issues, where a future scene about a topic is given and the group of four has two hours to complete a booklet.”

Within its booklet, the team had to create 16 challenges and 16 solutions based off of what is termed the “underlying problem.” Team members then created certain criteria pertaining to the solutions they came up with, choosing a main solution for which they wrote an “action plan” describing its key elements.

The team got a perfect score on its action plan.

“We did a ton of economic research, and that really helped with our underlying problem,” Krause said. “We have this system for the action plan, where Esha writes down bullet points of the solution and then I finalize it. A big deal is time management, and so everyone on the team has an aspect that they are especially great at.”

After completing the booklet, the team made a skit using props to effectively express its solution, being graded based on guidelines such as focus, adequacy, humaneness, and effectiveness, among other criteria.

“When we all went through our booklet, which is essentially the work we submit, we all felt really confident that we were true contenders,” Clifton said.

The state competition posed a different challenge to the students than what they encountered at districts, as the overall issue addressed at the event was changed.

“[State] is different than districts because the topic is different,” Krause said. “The topic [at state was] trade barriers.”

In preparation for state, the group studied economic concepts which would assist them with the new topic.

“For state we [had] been reviewing the AP Economics textbook as well as having weekly meetings and talking to [AP Economics teacher Bob] Sarver,” Krause said. “This year [the team] really had the drive to do well and to work hard. We researched human rights a ton and had group discussions and meetings very frequently.”

Clifton recalled the excitement and tension of Wednesday’s awards ceremony, the climax of the team’s efforts thus far and determiner of whether or not the hours of studying were well-spent.

“By the time of the awards ceremony, we all had less than five hours of sleep … and were stressing beyond belief,” Clifton said. “[When] they called our category, they had called up [the other winners] in no order and then announced them on-stage, leaving the first place in the crowd. At that time [we] were preparing for the worst, and by the time he finished saying ‘West’ we all jumped up and were completely ecstatic. All I remember is my cheeks hurting from smiling so big.”

Krause illustrated the benefits of involvement with Future Problem Solvers and of its approach to tackling obstacles.

“I love FPS so much,” Krause said. “It has really become a huge part of my life and it is so useful. By becoming familiar with the method of solving in FPS, you are able to directly apply that to any situation [to] find challenges and make solutions.”

Lack wass pleased with the overall performance of the group through teamwork and the results that came with practicing and studying.

“The team came together really well,” Lack said. “In the end, our hard work was totally worth it.”

The victors now prepare for the international competition set for June 7-10.

“Now we’re still continuing to plan for internationals in Indiana and we couldn’t be happier,” Clifton said.

By Natalia Marmol