Topics for 2020

Practice Problem #1 – International Travel

Most people dream of visiting new and exciting places to experience culture, cuisine, and local entertainment through travel. Transportation technology makes it easier and faster than ever before to get from one country to another although travel can be very expensive and time-consuming for many people. Heightened safety concerns often mean changing security requirements and government screening processes for crossing borders.
Some experts believe that technology may begin to replace in-person travel. VR-AR-MR (Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality / Mixed Reality), are immediate, involving, engaging and immersive types of entertainment that can accessed anywhere in the world. This could cause travel to boom if people, having used these technologies, want to experience the world “for real.” People may be increasingly comfortable in both worlds: the physical real world, and the digital world that is constructed instantly and repeatedly to fit what each person wants and chooses, using immediately responsive networks.
How will the time, technology, and expense associated with travel impact the future of international travel and tourism?

Practice Problem #2 - Sleep Patterns

Approximately one-third of our lives is spent sleeping. For nearly a century, scientists have been able to record brain activity and see the dynamic changes during sleep. Lack of sleep can affect brain function, especially memory, language, and emotional balance. Physical effects include fatigue, stress and health problems including heart disease and obesity. Today, technology on our wrists can measure sleep habits and movements.
Globally, businesses developing sleep aids are witnessing significant growth due to the rising incidence of sleep disorders. This has been exacerbated by the growing senior population. It is manifest in increasing demand for sleeping pills due to stressful modern lifestyles and increasing numbers of initiatives by various health organizations to increase awareness about sleep disorders. Sleep medications often have undesirable side effects and patents of major sleep drugs expire. Wakefulness aids, stimulants and prescription drugs such as coffee, energy drinks, benzodiazepines and even illegal drugs are gaining in popularity as a perceived solution to the need to perform effectively despite sleep deprivation.
How might our over-scheduled lives and increased digital presence disrupt natural circadian and sleep patterns? Can the benefits of sleep be replicated? What new technologies might be available to help people monitor and adjust brain wave activity during sleep? Will scientists discover more about the genes that enable functionality with less sleep?

Practice Problem #3 / Qualifying Problem - Gamification

Gamification isn’t just about leisure time digital or other games. Gamification applies the theories of game development that make games so alluring and creates sustained attention. Players and teams win points and rewards by completing designated tasks. Minecraft, for example, has been used by teachers for everything from computer science to social sciences to creative writing. Fitbit and tracking apps on the iWatch are increasingly popular and encourage competition – with yourself or with a group.‚Ä®Gamification helps users focus on tasks that might normally be boring, and the process might be applied to fields such as customer loyalty, education, health, recreation, job training, self-improvement, household chores, fundraising, and activism. Gamification is being used by corporations to make marketing interactive, but it’s also being used to benefit individual health and well-being.
Is there a relationship between gamification and tech addiction? How might gamification impact education and learning, inside and outside formal schools, or even in the workplace? What are some of the ethical implications, particularly around user privacy? What role will companies have in the creation of tech products to “hook” their users or the use of gamification as an educational tool? Can gamification enhance human interactions?

Practice Problem #4 / National Finals - Living in Poverty

Nearly half of the world’s population (more than 3.5 billion people) live in poverty. Of those 3.5 billion people, 1.4 live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $US 1.25 per day.
Across the globe, many people struggle to have and sustain basic needs such as food, clean water, basic medical supplies, and adequate shelter. Some people are forced to leave their homes to travel to other places or countries to find menial work to send money home to support their families. Due to poverty, many people are unable to access education. Some adults deliberately suffer from malnutrition so that their children can have the food that is available. Children in severe poverty are often orphaned or they have been sent away because their parents cannot afford to care for them. Healthy food can be very difficult to come by for the poor due to lack of financial and monetary resources, meaning that they depend on cheap, unhealthy foods to sustain their lives.
What can be done globally to assist those suffering from extreme poverty? How can we reverse this trend in order to decrease the adverse impact of poverty on future generations?

Scenario Writing Topics

International Travel
Sleep Patterns
Living In Poverty

Scenario Performance Topics

International Travel
Sleep Patterns


From woolly mammoths to saber-tooth cats, to passenger pigeons and dodos, to a myriad of insects and invertebrates, many species have become extinct over time. New scientific advancements are leading to unprecedented uses of fossilized materials. Could these archaeological discoveries combined with scientific breakthroughs lead to the long awaited, long speculated, realization of de- extinction? De-extinction, also called resurrection biology, is the process of resurrecting species that have died out, or gone extinct. De-extinction uses techniques such as cloning to revive an extinct species. De-extinction is a controversial proposition that has split scientists.
Technology to revive extinct species is close to being perfected, but does this mean that it should actually be used? Where will these revived species be housed and what impact will they have on an already changed habitat? What are the ethical pros and cons of reintroducing extinct animals? What limits should be placed on the use of such technology? Should scientists use this to undo environmental harm that has occurred? How might these restored species affect our current biosphere? How might living among de-extinct species affect humanity? 


Topics for 2019

Practice Problem #1 - Mission to Moon, Mars, and Beyond

A spacecraft in orbit? A biosphere on extraterrestrial ground? Private and governmental organizations are already planning missions to set up research stations or even colonies on the Moon and Mars. Many see opportunities to learn more about our solar system, leading to a better understanding of Earth and ourselves; others question whether such missions are even feasible. One private agency is already seeking volunteers for a Mars mission. Space ventures provide an impetus for advancing knowledge and technologies with applications in space, as well as on Earth. Entrepreneurial and scientific opportunities abound to explore, to mine, and to engineer under distinct conditions. Pioneers will need to plan for a sustainable long-term stay, which will require vast investments of people, money, and other resources.

Practice Problem #2 - Drones

Drones are among the most hyped products for aviation enthusiasts in recent years. Although originally developed for military use, drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can be cool gadgets used for recreation. They can also be powerful tools for commerce, scientific research, agriculture, entertainment, photography, transportation, disaster relief, search and rescue, surveillance, and policing. UAVs can carry payloads and can be controlled remotely by a human operator or by an onboard computer. Basic drone models can be operated with little skill or training. Regulations on the use of UAVs are already in place in nations around the world, but technological advancements and expanded applications may outpace their regulation. While UAV use is growing exponentially, concerns are also escalating. Privacy intrusion, airspace violation, criminal use, surreptitious military operations, accidental crashes, terrorist threats, and other issues have raised alarms.
What does the future hold for UAV technological advancements and accessory enhancements? Will access to UAVs be equitable? How will the pending prevalence of drones in our daily lives affect society overall, especially in areas of personal rights and safety?

Practice Problem #3 / Qualifying Problem  - Food Loss & Waste

Hunger remains a concern in the developing world, and the resources required for food production are limited. About one-third of food produced globally is lost or wasted, leaving millions of people hungry and valuable resources squandered.
Food loss refers to a decrease in food for human consumption during production, post-harvest, and processing stages. Causes include poor harvesting techniques, weak infrastructure (markets, transportation, storage, cooling, packaging), contamination (bacteria, fungus, insects), and corruption. In addition to reduced availability, food loss contributes to higher costs, hurting farmers as well as those who cannot afford to buy their food.
Food losses that occur at retail and consumption stages are called food waste and refer to behaviors such as discarding edible food. Quality standards based on perfect appearance, misused “best-before-dates,” and careless consumer attitudes contribute to waste. Food waste is more common in the industrialized world, while food loss is a greater concern in developing nations.
Can food loss prevention combat hunger and raise incomes in developing nations? Can food waste be decreased without sacrificing quality or safety? What roles might technology or regulations serve? What are the economic, environmental, psychological, and societal implications? Can we improve global food security while meeting the needs of diverse consumers?

Practice Problem #4 / National Finals Topic - Coping with Stress

With exponential change and fast-paced trends in society comes an increase in stress. Stress can be physical, mental, or emotional. Living conditions, as well as societal and personal expectations, can lead to higher levels of stress-related hormones. In some parts of the world, people find it difficult to cope with longer work hours and less leisure time as they attempt to meet society’s perceived expectations. Social media is a constant presence, delivering both subtle and overt pressures.
Most people experience stress, but individuals respond differently. Stress can be a useful motivator in the face of challenges or danger, but negative impacts can result from excessive stress. Medical and psychological problems can emerge or be exacerbated. Scientific data show that physical activity and relaxation techniques are samples of ways to reduce these negative impacts.
What are the personal and societal impacts of stress? Do different countries and cultures deal with stress the same way? How can we promote healthier lifestyles that help people to cope with stress?


The 2019 Scenario Writing topics are
Mission to Moon, Mars and Beyond
Food Loss & Waste
Coping with Stress
Criminal Justice Systems

2019 Scenario Performance topics are
Mission to Moon, Mars and Beyond
Food Loss & Waste



Topics for 2018

The topics for Future Problem Solving Program in 2018 will be


Each year, approximately 52 million people suffer from infectious diseases around the world.  Seventeen million deaths per year result from these diseases. With affordable global travel and more people living in cities, infectious diseases may spread rapidly across the globe.  How can the spread of infectious disease be controlled?  How can the health of people around the world be safeguarded?
Only the first three steps submitted

Practice Problem #2  - TOXIC MATERIALS

Toxic materials are everywhere: heavy metals in electronics, flame retardants in furniture and clothing, pesticides in our food, and harmful chemicals in plastics.  Poisonous chemicals are linked to cancer and birth defects.  Although certain chemicals are known to be hazardous, current regulation systems allow them to continue to be brought into homes via many products.  How can we become better aware of the dangers associated with toxic wastes?  What will happen if we increase our reliance on these materials? 
All six steps submitted

Qualifying Problem  - PHILANTHROCAPITALISM  

Philanthrocapitalism is a form of philanthropy in which entrepreneurial ideas, practices, and wealth are used to tackle global challenges. As the divide between rich and poor increases around the world, the number of billionaires is growing. Some of the planet’s wealthiest people have become philanthrocapitalists, pledging to invest time, energy, skills, ideas, and large amounts of money towards worthy causes. This may have a positive impact on the people, groups, and causes that are chosen for support, but there are questions about this form of philanthropy.
Will the efforts of philanthrocapitalists actually lead to deep, sustainable results? How will their causes be chosen? Do individual philanthrocapitalists have the expertise to address the world’s most significant problems? Will this model of philanthropy present conflicts of interest as it influences the priorities, donations, or behaviors of average people? Does philanthrocapitalism transfer the power and responsibility of social change away from governments and charitable organizations to an elite few? How might philanthrocapitalism benefit or harm the generations of the future?
All six steps submitted – Competitive teams must solve under National Finals conditions

National Finals - CLOUD STORAGE*

Cloud storage for commercial, private and public content is growing and is used by both public citizens and private corporations.  Advantages include lower costs for usage, automatic backup and recovery systems, less maintenance than what is presently required, and personal computers do not need to provide large amounts of data storage.  However, people worry about reliability and security. What would happen if corporations could not access their information stored on a cloud?  If a cloud system is hacked, how is information secured?  What if authentication and authorization systems fail?

* PLEASE NOTE: The topics for Scenario Performance will be
Spread of Infectious Disease
Toxic Materials


Biosecurity is a worldwide, cross-border problem. With the number of noxious pests, plant diseases, genetically modified crops, and displaced species increasing around the world, monitoring and controlling the movements across national borders is becoming increasingly difficult. Environmental changes may exacerbate the problem by altering the range of habitats and upsetting the natural balance. Equally difficult and a major concern is the implementation of measures to reduce the effect of these current issues on native flora and fauna as well as serious damage to exports. Even though a number of countries have stringent safeguards in place already, smuggling or lack of knowledge makes policing biosecurity difficult. Some countries have little or no policy for restricting the movement of plants and animals across borders. Customs officers can make some positive impact, but they are limited by the constraints of their job and the porous nature of many borders. Besides, what seems like necessary safeguards to some are seen as unnecessary constraints on trade and economic growth to others. How might development in new technologies assist in regulating and monitoring biosecurity issues? How can countries cooperate with each other in dealing with cross border contamination?


Topics for 2017

The topics for Future Problem Solving Program in 2017 will be 


Education is considered to be the pathway to an informed, future-focused population. In many countries, education is publicly funded by the central government or by state governments, with options for privately funded schools. In some countries, school funding/regulation is largely local and tied to property taxes. Other countries struggle to fund education at all. In addition to differences in funding, other economic and social factors contribute to educational disparities: family earnings, health status, gender, political participation, and social class.

Who should provide educational funding? Should intervention occur in communities or countries where social factors influence the quality of educational opportunities? Already, some international programs such as International Baccalaureate or international exams like Cambridge and PISA claim to give a fair indication of educational achievement around the world, but do results help or harm educational equality? As connectivity spreads around the world, how will universal access to interactive and personalized networks of education evolve? Will access to these virtual networks equalize opportunities in the future?


The genes of organisms can be altered using biotechnology techniques. New genes can be inserted into plants and animals to create new varieties and breeds or to lessen certain genetic activity such as susceptibility to disease. Since 1970 GM has helped produce greater numbers of crops with higher nutritional value and has been prominent in animal agriculture. Critics claim there are serious ethical, ecological, and economic issues with GM techniques. For example, GM crops can cross-pollinate with non-GM crops creating unpredictable characteristics in plants. Bioherbicides and bioinsecticides can be added to crop seeds, but are not always effective. Resistant weeds now infest 75 million acres of land across the world. Domesticated animals are being genetically modified to produce proteins that have applications for human medicine – proteins to control blood clotting or kill cancer cells, for example.

What will be the long-term impact of genetic modification of plants and animals? If plants and animals are genetically modified to resist current pathogens, will new, more resistant pathogens develop? Already, GM has led to international controversy and trade disputes, protests, and restrictive regulations on commercial products containing genetically modified organisms.


The developments in the use of technology in the medical field have been dramatic in recent years, covering both issues of medical treatment and the delivery of medical services. For instance, the use of advanced electronics in the production of prostheses and other organ replacements has given some sign of the possible extent of technology application into the future. With greater technology advancements, very expensive and specialised disposable items are being used during surgical and medical treatments.  It is suggested that in the near future an inability of access to these technologies for public or poorer private patients will lead to a resurgence of more basic reusable equipment being favoured.

With more advanced devices, there may also be problems with medical workforces, as company representatives  may be the only people specifically trained to use the technology, rather than medical staff. Medical robots may be replaced by sentient beings or robots comes into play, as well as patients a inspected by virtual doctors  Patients may also be able to ‘print’ their own drugs at home, bypassing the pharmacy system. All these developments have and will have implications for government regulation, the cost of healthcare (and who pays for it), as well as the impact on social relationships and community-based service employment that, in this decade, is the main form of employment.


Identity theft is a form of stealing someone’s identity. Most often, identity thieves steal personal financial information, buy things for their own gain, and pay for none of it. Frequently, identity thieves gain access to personal information through business and government databases that are not secure. Dates of birth, full names, bank account details and identification numbers are part of the information sought by identity thieves. Stolen identities can be used to fund other crimes such as illegal immigration, terrorism, or drug crimes. It can be extremely difficult to find and prosecute identity thieves as they are often from different countries than the individuals whose identities they are stealing and they obtain personal details online.

Victims of identity crime can be held responsible for crimes committed using their identity and may have to fight for years to clear their names. In addition to the damage done to individuals, identity crime costs governments large amounts of money every year. Great collaboration between global governments and organizations will likely be needed to combat identity theft in the years to come. Individuals and businesses will also need to protect themselves. <br>How should individuals and organizations work together to protect identities from theft? How will identity thieves adapt their practices as more time and effort is invested in protecting identities? What information will be the most valuable to thieves in the coming years and decades?

* PLEASE NOTE: The topics for Scenario Writing will be
Educational Disparities
It's All in the Genes
3D Printing
Identity Theft
Energy of the Future

** PLEASE NOTE: The topics for Scenario Performance will be
Educational Disparities
It's All in the Genes
3D Printing
Energy of the Future


Topics for 2016

The topics for Future Problem Solving Program in 2016 will be 

The Treatment of animals

Farmers, pet and animal owners, and scientific researchers have many different ways of treating animals in their care. Fewer than 30% of countries have animal welfare laws, and existing laws are not always enforced. Researchers assert that it is important to be able to use animals in research to test drugs and new medical procedures that can help both people and animals. Sometimes endangered animals are kept in captivity at a high cost in order to protect their limited populations. Animal shelters are often filled with feral animals or those that have been abandoned by their owners. Wild animals in many parts of the world come into conflict with human activity.

In the future, how might research impact human understanding and treatment of animals? Are zoos useful educational tools or unethical exhibitions? Are certain animals entitled to more rights than others based on cultural or intelligence differences? How can humans be better stewards in the treatment of animals? Who decides the appropriate treatment of animals and their role in society?

Disappearing Languages

Language is the soul of a culture. The survival of a culture may depend on the language used for rituals and to describe cultural ideas, beliefs, and understandings. What is the impact on culture when its language disappears? By some estimates, of the six thousand languages left on Earth, 90% are expected to disappear or be endangered before the end of this century. In New Zealand, government and community initiatives are trying to revive the language of indigenous people, but even so it is in a precarious state. Many indigenous peoples around the globe don’t have support to prevent their language from disappearing. Will anyone be able to read the rich literature embodied in the disappearing languages in the years to come? What oral traditions will be lost? What responsibilities, if any, do governments, institutions, and communities have towards preserving endangered languages?


Recovering from Natural Disaster

Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters are big news when they occur. Front-page news and internet feeds bring us the details of staggering statistics and images of loss of life and property. Recovery work such as rebuilding homes, infrastructure, and businesses go on even when the news moves on to the next big story. The human factor such as recovery from emotional, mental, and physical stress is a painful and difficult journey for survivors of natural disasters, often taking many years after the disaster strikes. A disaster recovery plan (DRP) often proves inadequate especially since it is often developed only after a disaster. Government agencies, insurance companies, charitable organisations, celebrities, and individual volunteers respond with immediate help, but long-term support can be difficult to sustain. How can relief efforts be best utilised, coordinated, and sustained to assist survivors? How can the people, communities, and countries that are affected by a disaster begin to recover from their losses and cope with their changed lives? How will the impact on psychological and physical health be managed?


The Global Workplace

The world today is increasingly interdependent with the advent of interconnectedness. The Internet brings individuals living in diverse places together for innovative opportunities in global collaboration. Physical space may no longer define a workplace. Many local and international corporations are able to employ people without them having to step out of their homes or countries. Developed countries outsource jobs to other countries where labour may be cheaper and labour laws less regulated. How might a more global workplace affect local and national economies? Some firms downsize their workforce in favour of automated systems that require less human input. These changes create a pool of workers who, besides being out of work, are often unprepared for other jobs. How might employers develop innovative ways to work globally? Is the growing trend of working globally online benefiting current workplace trends? How might this affect the world economy? What economic or educational changes might better prepare governments, businesses, and workers for a global workplace?



Topics for 2015

The topics for the Future Problem Solving Program in 2015 are

The Impact of Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Second Life, wikis, blogging, tweeting - all of these words have entered our lives in the last few years. The impact of Web 2.0 and the rise of associated social media have changed our lives in many ways that we are only just beginning to understand.

Regimes have fallen because of the use of social media; careers can be jeopardized due to past and present social events posted on social media; people all over the world are able to collaborate in real time to work and to play. Some people think social media has a detrimental effect on people’s social lives; others believe it is a new and exciting way of socializing and developing relationships.

How might social media continue to impact our lives? Who will monitor the truth and accuracy of social media? Will social media lead to increased social isolation or enhanced global collaboration? Is there a need for controls, monitoring, or restrictions on social media? Do the positives outweigh the detrimental effects? Does any government have the right to legislate the use of social media by its citizens?

Processed Foods

An increased interest in food and health has occurred around the world. Many questions have been asked on this topic: Where are food products produced? How? Why? Who produces food products? How far have these products traveled? How long have they been stored? How is food tracked from “farm to table”? ‚Ä®A huge number of food products are now chemically-enhanced and processed. Foods may be labeled as “natural flavors,” but these do not necessarily come from the original product. Strawberry flavoring, for example, may have started out as a bacterial protein. Are preservatives safe? How might the addition of flavor enhancers, vitamins and minerals, phosphate additives, and sugar and fat substitutes affect our overall health? What are beneficial reasons for using processed foods? What processed foods should we avoid? Genetic engineering is still under study and remains controversial. Nanotechnology represents the latest high technology attempt to infiltrate our food supply. Do these new technologies pose serious new risks for human health?


Propaganda is communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position. Selective messages are used to produce an emotional rather than rational response from the audience. Common media for transmitting propaganda messages include news reports, government reports, historical revision, junk science, books, leaflets, movies, radio, television, and posters. Propaganda shares techniques with advertising and public relations.

With growing trends in communication, how will propaganda be spread in the future through digital media? How can wealth of individuals, groups, or countries advance a particular agenda? In a number of regional and global conflicts, including both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Balkan Conflict, and more recently the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, propaganda has more typically referred to political or nationalist uses of these techniques. Examples of these techniques include the following: instilling panic, appealing to prejudice, creating a bandwagon, demonizing the enemy, stating half-truths, and providing a scapegoat. Propaganda usually exists on both sides of a conflict, but is often perceived as negative in nature. What are some positive examples of present-day propaganda? What are some negative examples of present-day propaganda?

Enhancing Human Potential

Through the use of performance enhancing drugs, personal trainers, speed-enhancing swimsuits, technologies for body and brain, people can enhance their potential in physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities. As time goes on, humans will be offered even more ways to enhance their potential in unprecedented ways: cybernetic body parts, memory-enhancing or erasing drugs, technologically advanced sports equipment, and/or humans/computer interfaces, etc. Will the definition of “human” change? Many ethical issues surround these advances: Should sports people be able to enhance their performances in any way they like? Should parents be able to choose IQ or mood boosters such as drugs or brain implants for their children? What impacts might exist with the disparities between the “haves” and the “have-nots”? How far might the human brain and body be pushed? To what extent can we “perfect” the human body? What “enhancers” do we have presently? What are the dangers, as well as benefits, of powerful new technologies that might radically change the lives of human beings?


Challenging students to apply their imagination and thinking skills.