2018-2019 Topics

These are the topics for the 2018-2019 competition season:


2018-2019 Topics

PP#1 Mission to Moon, Mars, and Beyond
PP#2 Drones
Regional Food Loss & Waste
State Coping with Stress
International To be announced in March 2019


PP#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.


PP#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? 


Regional Competition:  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?



State Competition:  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?


2017-2018 Topics

These are the topics for the 2017-2018 competition season:


2017-2018 Topics

PP#1 Spread of Infectious Disease
PP#2 Toxic Materials
Regional Philanthrocapitalism
State Cloud Storage
International <NOT YET ANNOUNCED>


PP#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?


PP#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?


Regional Competition:  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 apositive 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 Competition:  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? 

2016-2017 Topics

These are the topics for the 2016-2017 competition season:

Now updated with descriptions!


2016-2017 Topics

PP#1 Educational Disparities
PP#2 It’s All in the Genes
Regional 3D Printing
State Identity Theft
International <NOT YET ANNOUNCED>




Education is considered to be the pathway to an informed, future-focused population. In many countries, education is publically 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?


IT’S ALL IN THE GENES – Practice Problem #2

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.


3D PRINTING – Regional Competition – January 28, 2017

3D printing is an emerging technology that was first used in arts and hobbies. Because of its widespread applications, 3D printing is now being used in business, medicine, and industry. In biochemistry, engineers create 3D printed body parts. NASA has a 3D printer on the International Space Station. The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking into the feasibility of building a base on the moon using 3D printing. 3D printers are already inexpensive enough to use at home and universal enough for schools to include them as part of their technology or “maker” programs. The technology continues to develop at a fast pace and many breakthroughs are on the horizon. Experts predict there will be improvements to printing speed and quality and that 3D printed food and 3D bioprinting will soon be the norm.

What are the implications for global industries when people might be able to print anything they need at home? What are the implications for intellectual property rights when people are able to download patterns for whatever they want to print, whether it is physical, food, or biological? What if people can print their own weapons or vehicles? How might 3D printing evolve – 4D printing? Nanotechnology?


IDENTITY THEFT  – State Competition – March 25, 2017

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.

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?

2011-2012 Topics

These were the topics for the 2011-2012 competition season.


2011-2012 Topics

PP#1 Coral Reefs
PP#2 All In a Day’s Work
Regional Human Rights
State Trade Barriers
International Pharmaceuticals



Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are sometimes known as “the rainforests of the sea.” Reefs are some of the world’s great tropical and sub-tropical ecosystems. Coral reefs support the livelihoods of millions of people. Worldwide, already 25 percent of coral reefs have been destroyed or badly degraded and some scientist predict that by 2020 up to 70 percent might be permanently lost. These are areas rich in marine species that are found only in a small area. Therefore, they are highly vulnerable to extinction. They supply seafood, building materials, sources for medicinal products, and draw in much needed tourism revenue. Reefs also protect shorelines and communities from storms and erosion. Coral reefs are deeply threatened by human activities and global climate change. Coral reefs are an important source of food for hundreds of millions of people, many of whom have no other source of animal protein. However, especially reefs in developing countries are threatened and if human impact on reefs is not reduced there is a great danger that some of the world’s poorest people will lose an important source of nutrition, and in many cases, their livelihoods.


All in a Day’s Work

Mobile phones, laptop computers, and the Blackberry have changed where and when people can do work. Gender equality in the workplace has altered traditional notions of who should be at home and when. Globalization has led to increased competition and more business interactions across time zones – meaning longer hours at work for many. Is the forty-hour workweek a relic of the past? What impact will longer work hours and increased telecommuting have on families and on mental health of children and adults? Several countries have tried to mandate maximum work hours and minimum vacation time, but such policies can lead to higher rates of unemployment and other negative economic consequences. Will workers in the future, even well-educated ones, be able to succeed financially yet still manage to enjoy free time alone or with friends and family?


Human Rights

Since the end of World War II, many people have prioritized the protection of human rights around the world. But what exactly are human rights? Do they vary depending on religion and culture? Many western countries criticize the Islamic world for its treatment of women, while the United States is often condemned for its use of the death penalty. Can one nation fight to protect human rights in another nation, and if so, how? What challenges do globalization and the prevention of terrorism present to the preservation of human rights in the future?


Trade Barriers

Historically, states have relied on trade barriers – such as subsidies for domestic producers, import quotas, and tariffs – to protect domestic economic interests. Many economists have long argued, however, that such barriers can limit potential economic growth, may only benefit certain politically powerful groups like labor unions, and have other harmful effects. To combat these concerns, policymakers around the world have created new treaties and institutions, such as the World Trade Organization, on the theory that reducing trade barriers will increase economic prosperity. But others argue that the benefits of tearing down trade barriers means fewer jobs and lower wages for farmers, factory workers, and relatively less-educated employees. Should policymakers strive for Free Trade or Fair Trade in the future – or some balance of the two?



Many people rely on modern medicines to stay alive and well, but others are not as fortunate. Should countries have to respect intellectual property rights causing citizens to pay for drugs at prices they cannot afford? Are pharmaceutical companies earning too much profit? How do we sustain pharmaceutical research and development without incredibly large prices and profits? Are therapeutic products going too far in developed countries? It is difficult to understand why medicines for diseases that tend to afflict poorer countries – which are often relatively simple and cheap to develop – are neglected while there are drugs readily available for trivial issues such as cosmetics. Are people becoming too dependent on medications? One study in England concluded that over 50% of antibiotic resistant microorganisms are the direct result of the excessive use of antibiotics in intensive animal farming (i.e. battery chickens) and in human medicine as well. We’re now encountering the effects of overuse of antibiotics in diseases with resistance to multiple antibiotics which are limiting the ability of modern medicine to cure disease. What other consequences may result from mankind’s addiction to medicine in the future?

How to Participate

Participation begins with a school-approved coach.

Coaches may be teachers, retired teachers, parents, or volunteers from the community.
Coaches receive training by attending an MN FPSP sponsored workshop.
Workshops are conducted by the Executive Director or FPSP trainers.  A workshop fee is charged.
Another way to participate is to become a state certified evaluator.  Training is provided at no charge.
Volunteers are also needed for regional, state, and international competitions.
Email Cheryl for more information about any of the above opportunities.