Yearly Calendar

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


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

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?