July 16, 2021
USC team places first at state problem solving competition
A team of Upper St. Clair High School rising seniors recently earned top honors in the Pennsylvania Future Problem Solving State Finals. By finishing first the team of Shivani Jajoo, Aubrey Lang, Erin Payne and Nivedha Suresh qualified to represent Pennsylvania in the international competition, which was held June 9-14, 2021.
Although the competition was held virtually this year, the students still had to compete in real time. All teams were given just two hours to use a six-step think tank method to brainstorm possible problems and solutions for a scenario on the topic of personalized medicine, set in the year 2042. In addition, they were required to create and record an action plan presentation that had to be uploaded before midnight.
The Upper St. Clair team, coached by Gifted Education Coordinator Pat Palazzolo, served as the flag bearer for Pennsylvania in the Opening Ceremony for the Future Problem Solving International Conference.
“Sadly, the event was virtual this year, but the international office did everything possible to make the students feel that they were there,” Mrs. Palazzolo said. “We even had avatars and could interact with the students from all over the world -- whether visiting the displays of students' work, collecting mementoes from other states and countries that are hidden around the ‘campus,’ dancing on the ‘dance floor’ (our avatars have a number of dance moves), or just hanging out.”
In addition to the competition and avatars, the event featured seminars and workshops on creativity, problem solving, neurotechnology, the privatization of medicine and other topics, which took place via Zoom.
“It really hits home that we are in an international competition and conference when we are in a zoom session at 2 p.m. interacting with students in Malaysia who are apologizing for being a little foggy because it is 2 a.m. where they are,” Mrs. Palazzolo said.
Developed in 1974 by creativity pioneer E. Paul Torrance, Future Problem Solving develops the ability of young people to design and achieve positive futures through problem solving, using both critical and creative thinking. The program looks at current technological, geopolitical, and societal trends and projects those trends 20 to 30 years into the future, asking students to research and imagine solutions to potential challenges they may face as adults. Thousands of students from more than 14 countries participate in this program each year.
At the state-level competition, the team of William Bacdayan, Kate Clark, and Alyana Childs finished in third place, and the team of Carter Chui, Phillip Markovitz, Caroline Murphy, and Ben Wasson were awarded First Place for their Action Plan presentation.
Additional students who qualified for and competed in the Pennsylvania State Finals include high school students Anthony DeNoon, Jason Lu, Andrew Rosello and Shane Williams as well as Fort Couch Middle School students Jamie Barrett, Bryan Deep, Anna Engelman and Eva Dubreil, who also received second place in the Middle Division for their Action Plan presentation. Team coaches include Connie Gibson, Middle Division, and Mrs. Palazzolo, Senior Division.