Westlake’s Future Problem Solvers are some of the best in the world

By Abigail Clements
Year 12

On 5 June, 11 Westlake Girls students competed in the Future Problem Solving International 2020 Competition. This year, due to Covid-19, the competition was held virtually through an online system with over a thousand students competing from all around the world. This year’s experience was slightly different to internationals last year where we travelled to Amherst, Massachusetts, instead we competed from an upstairs A block classroom!

The students from Westlake Girls qualified for the international event by placing at the FPS National Competition held in Auckland at the end of 2019. Westlake Girls entered two Global Issues Problem Solving (‘GIPS’) teams consisting of Mea van Rooyen, Dhara Rana, Lauren McPhee and Ella Dorward in the middle age group division. Megan Meng, Serena Chen, Raeanne Leow, and Jumana Maash competed in the senior age group GIPS team division. Three students also competed in the individual division; Sophie Dykgraaf and Kenzie McKay were in the middle division, and Abigail Clements (me) competed as a senior individual.

FPS is a complicated competition where as an individual or in a team, students analyse a futuristic scene surrounding a futuristic topic, using knowledge from all across the school curriculum. Participants then identify challenges and come up with 8-16 solutions, document the selection of the best one through created criteria, and finally present a ‘Plan of Action’. This year the topic at FPSI was ‘Terraforming’; deliberately modifying an ecosystem such as another planet or landscape, to make it Earth-like and able to support life. FPS announced this year’s topic at the beginning of NZ lock-down, giving us lots of time to research and prepare for FPSI. Then at the end of Week 7, we sat the online exam at school at a designated time, in line with the international event.

A virtual prize giving ceremony was held remotely from Texas and streamed to the FPS NZ facebook site. I was sitting in class at the time of prizegiving, half completing my work and half listening to the livestream which took place during Period 3 on a Wednesday (NZ time). They began announcing the results for my division and to my surprise, they announced my name as placing fifth as a senior individual (top 5 place getters are mentioned in each category).

All of the Westlake competitors put in a lot of effort and did really well taking part in the tough event. Kenzie placed 9th and Sophie 16th in the middle individual divisions. The middle team placed 19th out of 69 teams and the senior team placed 27th out of 63 in their division. Everyone worked tirelessly to study the technical topic of Terraforming and competing in the virtual, 2020 Future Problem Solving International competition.

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