What would you do?

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

Imagine it is the year 2065 and a seafood company has invented a device that allows it to genetically harvest fish. The invention gives the company a monopoly in the seafood market, but the industry promises to use its profits to feed starving people in Third World countries.
What problems would that create? How would you solve those challenges?
Three teams of students from Nettleton High School were charged with those questions last month at the state competition for the Future Problem Solving Program International, an extracurricular activity at the school.
A team of four Nettleton juniors placed first at the State Affiliate Bowl and will compete in the international competition in La Crosse, Wis., on June 9-13. Another team of four seniors placed second at the State Affiliate Bowl held at Mississippi University for Women.
It is the second-consecutive year that teams from NHS have placed first and second in the state competition.
“It is like a state championship for the smart kids,” said Debbie Schlicht, Nettleton High School’s library media specialist and the coach of its Future Problem Solving team. “It is amazing to see how much they catch on to it.”
At competitions, teams are given a scenario that could arise at least 20 years in the future. They must list 16 possible problems that could arise from that scenario. They then select one major problem and submit 16 possible solutions. Answers are written into a booklet that is turned in to the judges. Teams have a two-hour time limit.
“It is a lot of work to be done in two hours,” said junior Channing Lansdell, one of the members of Nettleton’s first-place team.
Teams must also create a skit in which they demonstrate the action plan they have written.
“My favorite part is getting together with your friends and working as a team to accomplish a goal,” said junior Josh Riley, another member of the first-place team.
Joining Riley and Lansdell on that team were juniors Wesley Lee and Ra’Shun Jernigan. The four of them were first in the team booklet competition and second in the action plan skit competition.
Seniors Dalton Sullivan, Dylan Sullivan, Devan Richardson and Holly Schlicht placed second in the team booklet competition and fourth in the skit competition. Richardson and Holly Schlicht will serve as alternates at the international competition.
Nettleton’s Alex Clark placed second in the individual booklet competition. A team of Clark, Shawn Ray, Lateefah Jones, Mason Lee and Christian Doherty was third in the action plan skit.
Most of the students on Nettleton’s teams have been competing for several years. The four juniors on the first-place team have been members of the Future Problem Solvers team since they were in seventh grade.
Before competing at the state competition, they had to meet and solve two practice problems and one qualifying problem that were mailed to an evaluator.
The international competition will feature more than 110 teams from 40 states and from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia and Singapore.
The topic for the problem will be “green living,” and the students were given a list of readings to research in preparation for the event.
Lansdell attended last year’s competition as an alternate and hopes that the team will benefit from his experience.
“The big thing is the stress,” Lansdell said. “When you walk in there, it can be so intimidating to see 115 other teams. Once you get past the stress, you can buckle down and work on the problems.”
The team is hosting several events to raise $8,000 to allow it to attend the competition. Last week a barbecue netted about $700.
Nettleton is one of the only schools in Northeast Mississippi to field a Future Problem Solving team, but the school hopes interest grows in the region.
“They get to learn problem solving,” Debbie Schlicht said. “It really develops a depth of knowledge, and they get to see worldly issues that they may not have been aware of before.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.