Future Problem Solving Notes

A Beginner’s Guide to
Future Problem Solving
Future Scene/Scenario: A made up scene which is riddled with potential
problems for society. As you read a future scene, you should highlight potential
issues as well as stated problems. Feel free to take notes on the sides of the
paper as well.
Challenge: another word for problem. Your goal in Step One is to create 16
challenges that could result from the situation given in the future scene.
Underlying Problem: Once you have your 16 challenges, you must find the
underlying problem. This problem is the ONE issue that if solved would have the
greatest positive impact on society.
Solution: In step three, you are to create original, creative solutions to your
underlying problem. Your goal is to come up with 16 different solutions.
Categories: There are 18 categories that you need to keep in mind as you find
your challenges and create your solutions. The more categories you use, the
better your score.
Fluency: the number of ideas your team is able to generate.
Flexibility: the number of different categories that your ideas fall into.
Elaboration: how well you explain your ideas. The more details you provide,
the better your elaboration score.
Originality: your goal when coming up with challenges or solutions is to think of
things that others might not think of. The more original (not random – original)
your ideas, the greater the chance that other teams may not think of the same
Common FPS Abbreviations
FS: Future Scene
YP?SD: Yes, Perhaps, What?, Solution, Duplicate
Yes: You received full credit for your challenge
Perhaps: Judge was not 100% sure what you meant, but gave you half
?: Your judge did not understand what you meant or it was off topic – no
points given
S: You created a solution instead of explaining a problem – no points
D: You have already stated this challenge earlier in the booklet – no
points given
* (star): A star in the originality box means that your challenge (or solution) was
considered original. No other teams came up with that idea. You get 5 points for
each star.
R: Research present – this means that your judge saw that you used specific
and accurate research in your booklet.
KVP: Key Verb Phrase
UP: Underlying Problem
Para: Parameters (Date, Location, Topic)
C/P: Conditions and Purpose
R: Relevant – does your solution address the underlying problem?
E: Elaborate – did you give lots of details about your solution?
WSWB: Which solution will be
FANBOYS: the conjunctions – For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So – we try not to
use ANY conjunctions in Steps 1, 2, and 4.
What is Brainstorming?
Brainstorming is a tool used to bring out the innovative ideas of each individual
and take those ideas to another level. The key ingredient is to provide an
environment free of criticism for creative and unrestricted explorations of options
or solutions.
In Brainstorming we strive for F.F.E.O.
F = Fluency (the largest possible number of ideas)
F = Flexibility (a varied list of ideas in different categories)
E = Elaboration (well described and detailed ideas)
O = Originality (unique, unusual, and creative ideas)
Why should a team Brainstorming?
Brainstorming helps a team break free of old, ineffective ideas. This
freewheeling technique for generating ideas may produce some that seem halfbaked, but it can lead to new and original solutions to problems. Some of the
specific benefits of Brainstorming are:
It encourages creativity. It expands your thinking to include all aspects of
a problem or solution. You can identify a wide range of options.
It rapidly produces a large number of ideas. By encouraging people to
offer whatever ideas come to mind, it helps groups develop many ideas
Brainstorming equalizes involvement by all team members. It provides a
nonjudgmental environment that encourages everyone to offer ideas. All
ideas are recorded.
Brainstorming provides input to other tools. You may want to categorize
the brainstormed ideas. Teams can work together to evaluate their best
choice out of the ideas produced.
Brainstorming is useful when you want to generate a large number of ideas about
challenges within issues, possible causes for those challenges, and solutions
that might solve those challenges identified.
Rules for Brainstorming!
1. Strive for F.F.E.O.
2. Accept all ideas, no judging! In order to have active participation by all
team members, everyone should feel free to express his or her ideas,
even if they seem silly or far out.
3. No discussions – criticisms, compliments, or other comments – during the
brainstorm. This may negate someone’s great ideas!
4. Piggybacking is okay! Build on ideas generated by other team members.
Teamwork is part of the process!
5. Always have a scribe. All ideas should be written exactly as presented
and displayed where everyone can see them.
6. Always have a timekeeper and set a time limit.
7. No idea is too far-out or zany! Be creative!
Future Scene Analysis
As you read over the future scene, remember to highlight or underline problems
that you see. The problems may be directly stated, or they may be implied.
There are three goals when reading the future scene:
1. Find the DATE, LOCATION, and TOPIC.
2. Brainstorm some ideas about stated and implied problems.
The CHARGE: At some point during the future scene, the scene writer will help
you narrow your focus by giving you a CHARGE. The CHARGE is what you are
being asked to do. The CHARGE is often found in one of two places: the first
paragraph or the last paragraph. Often, the charge will address you as the
Future Problem Solvers. Your underlying problem MUST relate directly back to
the CHARGE or you risk having your booklet disqualified.
Step One: Identify Challenges
Step One has three parts.
1. A FACT or inference that can be made from the scenario/future scene.
2. WHY this fact or inference could pose a problem within the scenario.
3. RESEARCH to support why you believe this could be a problem. Your
research may be based on anything you already know (medicine, topic
specific research, education, etc.). NOT every challenge needs
research. If you can’t think of a piece of relevant research, don’t worry
about it.
NEVER use the words “IS” or “WILL” in a Step One Challenge.
INSTEAD, use the words “MAY” or “MIGHT”.
We do this because we are not 100% sure that the problem would happen. We
can only guess at what might occur.
A good way to start your Step One is to begin with one of the following phrases:
In this future scene,
In this scenario,
In the year ______,
In (location) _______,
Step One Example (from the Pegasus scenario): During mythological times, the
quest that Perseus has been given could take a long time to complete
(FACT/INFERENCE from scenario). While Perseus is gone, Pegasus’s condition
might get worse because it is untreated (WHY this might be a problem). In
humans, untreated illnesses can develop into worse problems, such as when a
person as the flu and does not get treated, it can develop into pneumonia –
which is much harder to treat (RESEARCH).
Scoring of Step One:
Step Ones are scored on the following criteria:
A. Is the challenge relevant or possible within the future scene?
B. Fluency – how many different ideas did you come up with?
C. Flexibility – how many different categories were you able to use?
D. Research – how many of your challenges include current, accurate
and relevant research?
E. Originality – did you come up with any ideas that other teams did not
think of?
F. Overall Quality of Ideas
Step Two: Select an Underlying Problem
In step two, you must narrow your focus. Re-read your CHARGE (from the
future scene). Determine which Step One Challenge BEST FITS your CHARGE
AND if solved, would most positively impact society as a whole.
You must follow the formula below exactly in order to not be disqualified.
Step Two has three parts.
1. Parameters – in your step two, you must include the following
information (called parameters): Date, Location, Topic.
2. Restate the problem.
3. HOW MIGHT WE, the (create a team name – optional), KVP (key verb
phrase) problem SO THAT why?
KVP: Key Verb Phrase
You have 6 verbs that you may choose from for your step two.
Step Two Example (from Pegasus scenario)*: In mythological times (DATE and
LOCATION), Pegasus has been infected with Neomites (TOPIC). In an effort to
cure Pegasus, Perseus is planning to go on a quest in order to prove himself
worthy of getting the cure for Neomites. This quest may be rather lengthy and
Pegasus may get worse while Perseus is away. HOW MIGHT WE, the Greek
Gaian Goddesses, MINIMIZE the amount of time Perseus is gone on the quest,
SO THAT Pegasus does not get worse while Perseus is searching for a cure?
*Note: This is not a very global Step Two. The only characters that
benefit from this underlying problem are Perseus and Pegasus. However, other
than that, it is well written and follows the formula.
Scoring of Step Two:
Step Twos are scored on the following criteria:
A. Completeness: Did you include the parameters (date, location and
topic), a KVP, a condition statement (restatement of the challenge) and
a purpose statement (so that ____)
B. Focus: How focused and narrow is your problem? Remember not to
C. Significance: How important is the problem you have chosen to solve?
Step Three: Produce Solution Ideas
Step Three is all about coming up with solutions to your underlying problem.
Your solutions should be CREATIVE and ORIGINAL! Each solution should be
DIFFERENT. You should not invent five different kinds of technology – because
only the first one will count. You must use different ideas and different categories
for each solution. No solving problems with MAGIC! 16 solutions that are
different from each other. Talk to your team!
Step Three consists of three parts:
1. WHO (you may use a real company, person, or organization OR you
may make up a name). Continental Airlines, Chevrolet, Ford, Metro,
NASA, Exxon, Wormhole Incorporated, Flying Chicken Wings Gas Co.,
Bus Inc., Sony, Naval Shipping, Uh Uh Uh Uh Uh Um Incorporated,
Metroid Incorporated, Giant Flying Airplanes, Phelans Flying Ducks,
Gates will be dead in 50 years!) No Fictional Characters!!!
2. WHAT (what will the WHO make happen? Will they invent something?
Improve on something that already exists? Etc.?) The more details
you add to your WHAT (including a creative name), the better your
elaboration score.
3. HOW (how will your WHAT work? WHY will it solve the underlying
problem?) The more detailed your step three solution, the better it will
be. This will improve your elaboration score and could also improve
your originality score. Worth Mega Points…over 60 total
Step Three Example (from Pegasus scenario):
Hermes Transportation (WHO) will allow Perseus to use their new prototype of
the Hermes Hyperwarp Heels (WHAT), also known as H3. H3 is a pair of
sandals that can reach hyperwarp speeds. The sandals are ignited with the
wearer clicking their heels together. Mini-fission reactors in the heel of the
sandal generate a large output of energy. The energy comes out of the heels
propelling the wearer up and forward. The wearer controls their direction by
flexing their toes and twisting their ankles. To stop, the wearer taps their right big
toe twice and the fission reaction begins a gradual slow down. The sandals are
still in testing, but have been considered safe so far. These sandals can help
Perseus travel on his quest faster, especially since with Pegasus sick, she can
not fly him around (HOW).
Scoring of Step Three:
Step Threes are scored on the following criteria:
A. Is the solution relevant to the underlying problem?
B. Fluency – how many different solutions did you come up with?
C. Flexibility – how many different categories were you able to use?
D. Elaboration – how well did you explain your idea? Did you include a
WHO, a WHAT, and a HOW or WHY? Do you have plenty of details
that explain your solution?
E. Originality – did you come up with any ideas that other teams did not
think of?
F. Overall Quality of Ideas
Step Four: Select Criteria
In this step, you will create five (5) questions with which you will evaluate your
top ten solutions. By carefully evaluating your solutions, you will be able to
determine the solution which is the strongest and best suited to your underlying
When creating your questions, you must remember to use superlative adjectives
(-est words).
Each question should evaluate only ONE criterion. DO NOT USE FANBOYS in
Step Four!!
Always state your question in a positive manner. Which solution will be the least
costly? NOT Which solution will be the most expensive?
Step Four Formula:
Which solution will be the (SUPERLATIVE ADJECTIVE) for (WHO) so that
Example: Pegasus is getting sicker by the minute (WHY), which solution will be
the fastest to implement (superlative adjective) for Perseus (WHO)?
Scoring of Step Four:
The more specific your questions, the better your score.
Generic: Which solution will be the most effective? This question will only score
one point because you don’t explain WHO needs it to be effective or WHY it
needs to be effective.
Modified: Which solution will be the most effective for the mythological world?
This question is still rather vague. WHY does it need to be effective for the
mythological world? WHO in the mythological world will benefit? BUT, it is better
than the generic one, so it will probably score two points.
Advanced/Specific: Which solution will be the most effective for Perseus on his
journey so that he can return to Pegasus in a timely manner? This question is
specific to the future scene and directly relates back to the Step 2 Underlying
Problem. This question would probably score three points.
Some common Step Four criterion
Most effective
Most easily adapted
Most humane
Easiest to implement
Least expensive
Least intrusive
be the easiest for _____________ to understand?
be the greatest improvement over (what is presently being done)?
have the most lasting effects for ____________?
take the least amount of new technology?
be the most helpful to society?
require the least number of personnel to implement?
be most beneficial to ____________ who are seeking further knowledge?
be the easiest to maintain as __________ problems increase?
be the most imaginative way to correct ________________ problem?
cause the least amount of disruption for (the people of the future scene)?
be most convenient for (the people of the future scene)?
be easiest to explain to (the people of the future scene)?
is the most ethically/morally/legally sound for (the people of the future scene)?
have the most appeal to (the people of the future scene)?
Remember to make them specific to your UP!
Step Five: Apply Criteria
For those mathematicians of the group – this is YOUR step!  Step Five is all
about math!
In Step Five, you look back over all 16 of your solutions from Step 3 to determine
the BEST 8 or Top Eight Solutions.
For the Top Eight Solutions, write the number of the solution in the box on the
grid. They do not have to be listed in numerical order. If you would like to
quickly add a BRIEF description of the solution (one to three words), you may do
Now, for each of the criteria created in Step Four, evaluate EACH solution.
Decide which solution really will be the most cost effective. Which one will be the
safest? Etc.
You will need to RANK ORDER the solutions for each criterion. For example, the
solution that is the BEST according to criterion #1 will receive EIGHT (8) points.
The worst will receive ONE (1) point. You MAY NOT REPEAT numbers.
Repeat this process for EACH criteria. Fill in the grid as you go. Feel free to
divide and conquer on this step. Each of you take one criterion and evaluate the
ten solutions independently on scratch paper, then transfer your numbers over to
the grid.
Add the numbers going ACROSS!! The solution with the HIGHEST number of
points is your BEST SOLUTION! You will use this solution to create your Step
Six Action Plan!
There can NOT be a TIE for FIRST PLACE!!! There can be ties for other places,
but NOT FIRST. If you need to, play with the numbers to create a CLEAR
Scoring of Step Five:
Scoring of Step Five is simple.
You will lose ONE (1) point for EVERY MATH error in the grid.
You will also lose points in this section if you repeat numbers in a single column.
SO, use each number only ONE TIME per COLUMN and CHECK YOUR MATH!
Step Six: Develop an Action Plan
In this Step, you must write a proposal for your BEST solution. This is the
persuasive writing piece of the puzzle. Your goal is to adequately explain your
idea and convince your reader/judge that your idea WILL work and WILL solve
the underlying problem. 
Your action plan is the final product of the FPS process and should represent a
culmination of your work in the previous five steps of the booklet. Make sure
your plan demonstrates clear connections, creative AND futuristic thinking, and a
potential for success!
Action Plans that typically score low:
LAWS – not very creative, take a long time to implement
EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS – not very creative, take a long time to
implement, questionable as to how effective they would be
RELIGIOUS PROGRAMS – do not appeal to all groups of people, will
probably isolate at least one religious group which is not good
TECHNOLOGY that already EXISTS – not futuristic or creative
NOT humane!!!
Your Step Six should answer the following questions:
WHAT problem have you chosen to solve?
WHO will make the solution happen?
WHAT will be done to solve the challenge?
WHY will this solution positively impact the future scene?
WHY will this solution positively impact the topic?
HOW will the action plan be carried out?
Your Step Six should be a minimum of three paragraphs:
Paragraph One: Restate the underlying problem and the parameters
(date, location, topic). (Remember – restate does not mean copy – you
will want to reword the UP as a statement – not a question.) Summarize
the solution you have chosen as the best solution to the underlying
Paragraph Two: Go into detail about WHAT the solution is, WHO will
make it happen, HOW it will work, WHY it will work. You will want to
expand on what you wrote in the Step Three. Add even MORE details!
Also make sure to address HOW this solution will positively impact the
future scene and topic. Paint a clear picture of the solution and how it will
work for your reader.
Paragraph Three: In this paragraph, you will need to explain HOW the
solution addresses at least THREE of your Step 4 criteria. WHY will it be
the least expensive? HOW will it be the most effective solution? You
should also explain HOW this solution is HUMANE!!!! HOW will this
solution make the world a better place? WHO will it make the world a
better place FOR?
Paragraph Four (optional): If you have time, you may want to address
some of the possible obstacles that might stand in the way of your
solution. Maybe it is the fastest to implement, but NOT the most cost
effective. Address the issue. Just remember to end on a POSITIVE
NOTE! Explain that with hard work and dedication, your team is confident
that you can OVERCOME the obstacles!
Scoring of Step Six:
Step Six is scored on three criteria:
Impact on Underlying Problem: How well does your solution solve your
underlying problem?
Impact on Future Scene: How well does your solution solve the
problems present in the future scene? If you did not choose a significant
problem for Step Two, you will probably score low on this piece.
Humaneness: How humane is your action plan? Did you ensure that no
one is unnecessarily harmed in the creation or execution of your plan?
Remember, your goal is to make the world a better place!
Some additional Step Six Notes
This is the last thing your judge will read. Leave a positive lasting impression!
Use proper sentence structure, grammar and spelling. Make it NEAT! If it is
hard to read, your judge may not give it as much attention as it deserves.
Look back at the format of the Future Scene. Is it in the form of a letter? An
email? Did the charge ask you to send your proposal to a certain company,
government agency or group? If so, make sure to format your action plan
appropriately. If you are supposed to write a letter, write the action plan in letter
Your book as a whole will be scored for futuristic thinking and creative strength.
A lot of this comes from your Step Six action plan. Remember to think
FUTURISTICALLY. Don’t create an action plan that already exists!
Some Final Notes on Competition Booklets
No, spelling does not count, BUT typically, booklets with accurate spelling do
score better simply because the information is easier to read.
WRITE NEATLY!!! If your judge can’t READ what you wrote, then (s)he can’t
SCORE what you wrote!
You MUST write in BLUE or BLACK PEN ONLY! So, if you make a mistake,
simply cross it out ONE time. There is no need to black out what you wrote.
One line through the mistake is fine!
You may NOT write on the backs of the pages. If you need additional paper, ask
your room monitor for some and keep it neat! Make sure the numbers on your
competition booklet match the additional sheets of paper so your judge knows
where to look to see the rest of your work.
Do not label your challenges or solutions with the category names. Let the judge
decide which category each challenge or solution fits into.
Assign AT LEAST ONE TIMEKEEPER for your team. This person should WEAR
a digital watch. (S)he should remind the team of the amount of time remaining in
the competition. One of the worse things that can happen during a competition is
your team runs out of time and is unable to complete the booklet.