Yearly Calendar (1)

2023-2024 Topics

Practice Problem 1 – Tourism

Tourism not only benefits host locales but those on holiday. Travel enriches their lives, expands their understanding of people and cultures, while also serving as a respite from daily life. The economic stability of such destinations depends on the sustainability of their tourist trade. As the popularity of such destinations grows, international corporations and developers typically flock to these growing places, trying to capitalize on the financial possibilities. There is money to be made in building hotels, restaurants, and in developing an area’s growing tourism industry. As outside groups seek to attract tourists and the revenue they generate, locals often struggle to maintain their location’s unique appeal and ability to support local venues. As this build-up occurs, local people can have their cultures exploited, lands destroyed, and their local businesses put in jeopardy. As the tourism sector grows and expands, we are seeing the expansion of the Special Interest (SIT) market – tourists wishing to match their vacations with their interests (e.g., ecotourism, wellness tourism, event tourism, ancestry tourism, etc.) How will changing forms and trends of tourism impact tourists and hosts alike? How can the advantages of expanding tourism be balanced with the protection of destinations?

Practice Problem 2 – Urbanization

Today nearly half the world’s population lives in an urban area. By 2050, that number is expected to reach 70% due to this increase in Urbanization. Urban areas and their large populations often hold power over governance, economic development, and international connectivity beyond their immediate regions. With proper planning, urban centers can provide educational and economic opportunities to residents not found elsewhere. However, they can also easily give rise to slums and increase income inequality. With growing footprints, cities are also struggling to provide basic needs, essential services, and safety. Future urban planners must address tough questions: What qualities in society should be valued most? What is fair and equitable? Whose interests will be served first? Planners must balance the speed of decision-making with the need for thoughtful, well-considered programs for development. As urban areas expand, how can we develop areas that are efficient, resilient, and inclusive? Future urban planners must address tough questions: What qualities in society should be valued most? What is fair and equitable? Whose interests will be served first? Planners must balance the speed of decision-making with the need for thoughtful, well-considered programs for development. As urban areas expand, how can we develop areas that are efficient, resilient, and inclusive?

Qualifying Problem – Antartica 

Antarctica, the highest, driest, coldest continent, has no permanent population and is governed by a collection of agreements between fifty-four countries. The Antarctic Treaty System designates the entire continent and surrounding waters for scientific endeavors, bans military activity, and promotes environmental research and preservation. Although Antarctica remains the most remote place on Earth, it is highly regulated and heavily impacted by activities around the globe. Parts of the continent are polluted by sewage, discarded machinery, fuel products, and rubbish. Antarctica is thought to be rich in minerals and resources, though an ‘indefinite’ ban on mining is in place through 2048. Antarctica also holds over 60% of the Earth’s fresh water in an ice sheet that contains 90% of the Earth’s total ice volume. As global temperatures rise, these are breaking apart and melting faster, endangering local wildlife and entire ecosystems. Without a consistent population or a sovereign state, Antarctica possesses a unique space within political, economic, and environmental crossroads. How can Antarctica be sustainably utilized yet simultaneously preserved to best benefit our global population?

Affiliate Bowl – Autonomous Transportation

Our transport needs, desires, and realities are rapidly changing due to global growth and increased connectivity. As modes of transportation continue to evolve, increasing levels of complexity and efficiency are pursued. What role will autonomous vehicles, cars, airplanes, ships, etc., which operate without human intervention, play in this pursuit? Their development continues to increase exponentially with advancing technological capabilities. Since all scenarios are not programmable, autonomous vehicles must learn and react. They do this by surveying their environment with multiple sensors and utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to process vast amounts of data. Autonomous vehicles can deliver on demand, refuel, park, and store themselves. By creating a network of these vehicles, entire systems of transport could become autonomous, controlled by a central AI. How will the efficiency of autonomous vehicles affect the development of transportation, on land and sea, in the air, and possibly space? How will autonomous transport cope with unexpected risk situations and ethical decisions? In what ways will autonomous transport impact jobs, industries, infrastructure, and lifestyles?

Yearly Calendar (1)

2022 – 2023 Topics

Practice Problem 1 – E-Waste

Electronic devices are often replaced with the latest version at an alarmingly fast pace. These constant upgrades add to e-waste, significantly impacting the environment and reducing natural resources while consumer demand is being met. Tens of millions of tons of such materials are discarded every year worldwide. Electronic products are full of hazardous substances such as toxic materials and heavy metals that can threaten humans, plants, animals. One method of disposal often employed by developed states is to offload e-waste to low-income countries for resale or demolition. This offloading places developing nations at greater risk of exposure to toxic chemicals and materials. Meanwhile the high rate of device upgrades in developed countries has significant consequences for both people and the environment. What impact does planned disposal have on the amount of e-waste? What incentives can be developed to promote software upgrades for existing devices? As the appetite for ever-increasing technological devices continues, what are the implications for how we dispose of these devices? How can more effective and ethical responses to recycling and disposal policies be encouraged to protect human life and the global environment in the future?

Practice Problem 2 – Digital Realities

Technologically, virtual reality is widespread and expanding its application through augmented, enhanced, mixed, and other forms of digital realities. The options and opportunities for its application appear boundless through the integration of 3-D images, gaming, computer-assisted instruction, equipment simulators, and entertainment platforms. The imposition of holographic images over real-world views have applications ranging from education, archaeology, and engineering, to sports training, video games, and artistic expression. The utilization of augmented reality technology is already making significant changes to the manufacturing industry. What other industries will it revolutionize? The inclusion of haptic, visual, and auditory overlays can be both constructive and destructive to users. New opportunities are provided to individuals with disabilities. New treatments are made available to the ill. How will enhanced reality impact human interactions? Digital reality is constantly evolving with advantages for all fields. How will we deal with the fiscal, educational, and psycho-social issues that might arise?

Qualifying Problem – Robotic Workforce

Machines were developed to assist with dangerous and difficult jobs. At present, unskilled human labor is being replaced with robotics more quickly than at any time in history. Advancements of such machines move technology closer and closer to lights-out manufacturing. In countries with robust national safety nets, these changes are viewed as inevitable, and they have begun to explore new human employment concepts. Robotic workers often provide for human safety as in the case of bomb disposal. Laborers are fearful of how these looming employment changes and uncertain of how their work life will proceed. A robotic workforce’s effects go beyond manufacturing as university-trained individuals such as lawyers and accountants are already being impacted by automation. What will the human workforce of the future look like? Will specialized training and education be needed for a combined human and robotic workforce? What will our future work force look like? How will our future economy be impacted by robotics in the workforce?

Affiliate Bowl – Throw Away Society

Consumerism has promoted a ‘throw-away’ society – one in which people do not keep things for very long, preferring single-use and disposable items. This societal approach leads to overconsumption of short term items instead of durable goods that can be repaired. Widespread social influencing often encourages people to focus on the consumption, ownership, and display of material possessions to mark an individual’s social status, identity, and standing. This impacts the environment, lifestyles, and distribution of wealth. Consumerism stretches the world’s limited natural resources. Production is dictated by consumer demand, and businesses try to provide consumers with a growing number of options, including branded goods, to stay afloat. Many products are often fads or are adapted and modified regularly to entice consumers to buy the upgrades despite already having durable ones. Constant upgrades are sought in an effort to achieve greater social standing through material possession instead of meaningful acts. How can societies value all of their members while allowing for – and encouraging – individual perspectives and desires? What are the appropriate balances between local values and global aspirations for consumers?

Yearly Calendar (1)

2020-2021 Topics


Practice Problem #1
Millions of children around the world participate in competitive youth sports every year. Involvement in organized 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 well being of youth and their families?


Practice 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?’


Qualifying Problem
Humans have always impacted the environment. Over time, the effects have increased as industrialization, urbanization, 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. Industrialization and urbanization 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. Industrialization 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?


Affiliate Bowl
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. Personalized 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 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 individualized 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 Personalized Medicine account for the impact of external/environmental factors on an individual’s health?

Yearly Calendar (1)

2019-2020 Topics

Hello, all! So begins the next year of problem solving! I have attached the topics, their descriptors, and links to the suggested readings provided by the International Office here. As always, coaches, please screen the articles to ensure their appropriateness before sharing with your students!

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?

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.
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?

State Bowl – 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?

Yearly Calendar (1)

2018-2019 Topics

(Descriptors from FPSPI)

Practice Problem #1 – due October 15, 2018 – 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 – due November 30, 2018 – 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?

Qualifying Problem – due January 25, 2018 – Food Waste and Loss

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?

State Bowl – March 15, 2018 – 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?

Yearly Calendar (1)


As the competition year began, concerns began to arise about Disorders, the topic selected for the Qualifying Problem. Many felt that the topic may address concerns that were sensitive areas for some competitors. As a result, the Qualifying Problem topic will focus on philanthrocapitalism instead. I’ve included a few articles below to jumpstart your thinking about the topic! Coaches, as always, I recommend pre-screening the articles and determining what you feel is appropriate for your students.


Kicking Off the 2017-2018 Year!

Hello everyone,

If this is your first time being exposed to Alabama Future Problem Solving, then welcome! If you have been involved with Alabama FPS before, welcome back! This website is one of many upgrades in which Alabama has been invested this summer to make the Future Problem Solving experience as great as we can for you as coaches, students, parents, and any other interested parties!

Throughout the year, there will be updates posted here to keep everyone apprised of what is going on with Alabama FPS so be sure to bookmark the home page! If you have worked with Alabama Future Problem Solving before, you will notice that we are not using the ROCS system this year. Accordingly, registration will take place through this website. See the Register link at the bottom of the website or under the Coaches tab at the top of the page.

Also under the Coaches tab, you will notice a password-protected link that directs to a page called “Resources for Coaches.” Alabama is making strides in providing enrichment opportunities to our coaches for each of the topics, as well as research related to the topics and/or practice scenarios that we create throughout the year. These resources will be available to all registered coaches!

We are developing a resource area for our students, too! This year, the primary focus will be on research related to the topics, but as we grow, so, too, will the student resource area. It is our hope that our students can contribute to this endeavor, such that we can have a student resource area for the students… by the students!

Evaluators, your topic notes will be provided electronically through this website this year as well. We are recruiting new evaluators, so if you have had previous exposure to the FPS process, please do consider applying! Coaches, we strongly recommend that you complete evaluator training! It can yield significant insight into the judging process and help your teams strengthen their own booklets!

Our calendar is posted at the bottom of the website under “Important Links.” Please be sure to review it as soon as possible, so that you are able to plan accordingly for the upcoming year! If you attended State Bowl 2017, this calendar has been modified slightly from the dates presented there, so be sure to update your personal calendars with these dates!

As always, if anyone has questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions, please contact us with them! We are here for you and want to adapt to serve you as best as possible!

David Conner
Affiliate Director

Yearly Calendar (1)

2017-2018 Topics

Links direct to the suggested readings from Future Problem Solving Program International for each topic

Practice Problem 1 – Spread of Infectious Disease

Estimations indicate that more than 52 million people fall ill from infectious diseases around the world each year. Seventeen million people die annually from these diseases. With the advent of affordable global travel, infectious diseases may spread rapidly over a large area across the globe. Vaccines and treatments are often ineffective or expensive to manufacture.

How can the spread of infectious disease be controlled? How can the health of people around the world be safeguarded?

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. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) products are an example of matter dangerous to health and environment. In the factory, at home, and in the trash, poisonous chemicals are linked to cancer and birth defects. Certain chemicals are known to be hazardous, yet current regulation systems allow them to continue to be brought into homes via many products. Even worse, information pertaining to health and environment damage is not available for most of these chemicals.

How can we become better aware of the dangers associated with toxic wastes? What will happen if we increase our reliance on these materials?

Qualifying Problem – Disorders 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?

State Bowl – Cloud Storage

Cloud storage for commercial, private, and public content is a growing phenomenon and is used by both public citizens and private corporations. Cloud storage provides a number of advantages: lower costs for usage, automatic backup and recovery systems, less maintenance than what is required presently, and personal computers do not need to provide large amounts of data storage. From the negative aspect, 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? The safety of data depends on the third party hosting companies. How should businesses protect their data and intellectual property when cloud storage means they’ve exchanged much of their ability to manage their data directly for ease of operation and convenience?