There are five topics available every year but most students will only research three of these. One topic is reserved for National Finals and the other is reserved for the International Competition.

The topics are chosen from a world-wide ballot of FPS students. Topics are always based on current issues. Topics have included Nanotechnology, Freedom, Fads, Medical Ethics, Organ Donation and Entertainment.


Youth in Competitive Sports (Problem 1)

Millions of children around the world participate in competitive youth sports every year. Involvement in organised sports teaches many essential life skills – teamwork, confidence, the value of hard work, and discipline. While some competitive sports promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, others build skills such as mental agility. The hyper- competitiveness of youth sports raises concerns that children are pushed too hard to win and succeed. The sports options for youth are also evolving, as competitive e-sports emerge.

Competitive sports can heighten aggression, pressure to win, and put children – who are still growing and developing – at risk for injuries. In many places, increasing costs of club sport-memberships and insurance exclude those who need social interaction and fitness the most. The costs of maintaining and running facilities can also limit the accessibility for youth.

How much should we push young people to participate in competitive sports? Do the benefits of structured competition outweigh the costs of over-competitive behavior and possible injury? How does participation in sports impact the wellbeing of youth and their families?

Wearable Technology (Problem 2)

Traditionally, clothing and accessories have all been developed to fill basic needs. They provide warmth, protection from the elements or injury, and even serve to attract attention. Recently, the industry for wearable technology has transformed the way we think about clothing and accessories. Wearables have rapidly expanded to include heating elements, internet connections, watches, body monitors, and more.

As more people grow accustomed to wearables in their daily lives, the possibilities for what the technologies can do are virtually limitless. They already monitor vital signs, send information to medical professionals, and even give individuals the ability to soar like a bird in personal flight suits. Smart sports uniforms can now reduce and identify injuries by regulating body temperature, supporting muscles and tendons, and gauging the force of impact. Attire with virtual reality functions is currently being developed to push this sector even further.

How will wearable technology enhance or jeopardize real-life experiences and connections with others? Where in the world could wearable technologies allow humans to survive? What advantages or disadvantages are inherent in the inclusion of technology in our clothing and on our bodies?

Human Environmental Impact (Qualifying Problem)

Humans have always impacted the environment. Over time, the effects have increased as industrialisation, urbanisation, deforestation, processing of natural resources, the burning of fossil fuels and more technologies have developed. Examples of human’s impact on the environment are everywhere.

Feeding the world’s growing population has adverse environmental effects such as overgrazing, deforestation, and agriculture-induced soil erosion. Water pollution from pesticides and fertilizers impacts the quality of water available for specific populations. Clearing of land and overfishing result in loss of biodiversity and disturbances to ecosystems. Industrialisation and urbanisation cause the release of toxic solid, liquid, or gaseous waste materials and are the catalyst for serious environmental hazards. Water pollution as a result of poor disposal of sewage wastes, solid wastes, and other industrial wastes, may spread diseases and create an unfit environment for human activities. Industrialisation has also increased consumption of natural resources for the production of goods, leading to a significant loss of nonrenewable resources and excessive waste. Activities like mining and dam construction cause habitat destruction. Trends like “fast fashion” contribute to why the fashion industry is the second-leading cause of pollution in the environment. What are our challenges moving forward to create a balance between basic human needs and our need to preserve or create an environment that is fit for continued quality human existence and growth?

Personalised Medicine (National Finals)

What if your doctor could diagnose you before you experience symptoms? Using information from an individuals’ genetic and molecular profile, researchers have begun to create patient-specific treatments with a level of precision never before seen. Personalised Medicine enables healthcare providers to use a patient’s cells to combat precisely identified diseases at an unprecedented pace.

Researchers at universities, biotech companies, laboratories, and pharmaceutical companies are continually making discoveries. Doctors and other healthcare professionals continue to explore how these discoveries can help patients and increase our knowledge about diseases. The pharmaceutical industry is developing medications that are tailored to an individual patient’s genetic makeup. The costs of genetic tests are decreasing as their availability increases. Even with better affordability, how accessible will individualised advanced treatments be? Will insurance companies cover them? The increasing specificity of personal health information raises many concerns about the protection of personal data. How will Personalised Medicine account for the impact of external/environmental factors on an individual’s health?

Neurotechnology (International Finals)

Neurotechnology is a growing science that helps people understand the brain as well as aspects of consciousness, thought, and high-functioning activities. Since the development of brain imaging, scientists have made significant progress in the field. Neurotechnology includes products and procedures that improve and repair brain function. Presently, we can create images of almost all aspects of the brain, and to some degree, control its functions. Brain imaging, stimulation, measurement, and cell therapy all show promise, as do developments in brain-computer interfaces. Neurotechnology can help treat depression, insomnia, Parkinson’s disease, and many other conditions, as well as improving the quality of life for those with disabilities or injuries. However, its side effects are not well understood, and the implications related to its use have not been fully explored. What potential challenges could scientists, policymakers, and the public face as this technology continues to develop? How can neurotechnology be used to heal and enhance human and animal brains? What are the potential benefits and consequences of its growing use?


Future Problem Solving NZ