Harker Future Problem Solving (FPS) teams, middle and upper school, took home multiple championships at the international finals (11 countries, 40 states) held in Indiana in June. Chris Nikoloff, head of school, said it all in a word: “Outstanding.” A complete listing of awards is at the end of the article, but Cyrus Merrill, FPS coach, tells the story below.
By Cyrus Merrill
Our amazing success is a direct result of the legacy of so many talented FPSers who have been part of our program, which is now a little more than a decade old and which has now earned over 10 world championships.
The topic at the international finals was pharmaceuticals and the scenario this year involved challenges and complications surrounding international regulatory acceptance of a new personalized (to your own DNA) medical pill being produced in Brazil.
Harker is now one of the single most successful programs around the world. For the first time ever Harker finished in first place in more than one age division and category. Harker was in the prestigious top 10 in the written booklet competition – in both the middle and senior divisions.
We finished fourth in the middle team division and we were the overall champions in the incredibly tough and competitive senior/high school team booklet division. We also returned to our strong, proud tradition of being the presentation of action plan (skit) international champion (middle division) for the sixth time in the past seven years.
There is a link below to watch these amazing eighth and ninth graders in their final skit, which they were asked to reprise in front of thousands of people at the awards ceremony. Multiple coaches from several countries all came up to me and asked, “When is California (implying Harker) presenting its action plan skit?” because we have become so well known for our success in that area.
It is a big deal to be in the top 10 in any portion of the competition and we finished with six teams or individuals in the top five and two overall team championships – not bad, especially when you consider that this was out of six categories total.
Finally, I am also especially proud that two of the international finalists in the junior division were from other California schools where our own Harker students had helped to mentor and train those very student competitors and their coach this year.
We are now the only school (and state or foreign country for that matter) to have been awarded a first place in more than one age group and in all of the categories of problem solving: 2012 – team and Plan of Action (several years); 2011 – Alternates (also in 2008 as part of an international group of students from different countries); 2009 – Individual.
The only problem solving category we have not had an overall champion in remains the adult and coaches division, however, I joked with the kids that I promise to eventually pull my own weight, having finished third this year and second several years ago.
I could not be more proud of our wonderful young students than I am at this moment. I want to thank all of them for their amazing efforts and late nights spent reviewing and brainstorming about the topics this year. I want to thank all of the parents for their support of the program as well.
I look forward to next year, when Harker will host the state bowl in April, and to continuing our remarkable success in an amazing program where kids have to work to research topics and analyze future crises all on their own. I love the FPS process and its motto, “Teaching kids how to think, not what to think,” but I would personally add “and then getting out of the way to let them do it on their own.”
International champions, beating out powerhouse teams from New Zealand, Great Britain (actually coached by a former coach at the Nueva School in California ) and Singapore! Remember, Kentucky teams go to FPS camp in the summer for several weeks and meet daily to prepare for the competition, and FPS is a statewide program in Texas and in several other states. Some schools spend more than 10 hours a week working on just FPS! Harker students, on the other hand, completed their school finals and then hopped on a plane the very next day so we were certainly at an apparent “disadvantage” with regard to our ability to prepare for or focus on the international finals topic.
Senior division – booklet competition: rising seniors Ria Desai, Sonia Gupta, Pooja Shah; rising junior Nikhil Dilip.
Middle division – presentation of action plan: rising sophomores Tiara Bhatacharya, Juhi Muthal, Madhu Nori, Sindhu Ravuri, Ankita Pannu, and rising freshman Michael Zhao. An amazing video of this group’s skit/action plan presentation is available. Go to 28:54 to listen to their action plan and 30:40-35:37 to watch their amazing skit being performed in front of nearly 3,000 people in the theater and a live Web audience as well. They wrote this skit and designed it in a mere couple of hours.
Senior division – alternate competition joining competitors from other countries to form a team – Andy Wang, rising junior
Adult division – booklet competition (Cyrus Merrill)
Middle division – booklet competition: rising sophomores Tiara Bhatacharya, Juhi Muthal, Madhu Nori, Sindhu Ravuri
Senior division – scenario writing (first ever top five placement by someone from California). Shelby Rorabaugh, rising senior. Because of her finish she is now a published writer as the top five are published and sold.
We also had a second middle division team of rising eighth graders Evani Radiya-Dixit, Sneha Bhetanabhotla, Angela Kim, Priyanka Taneja, Swetha Tummala and Neymika Jain, who finished tied for second place in the preliminary round (and the top two teams out of 11 from each preliminary round advance). They lost out in essentially a coin flip/tie breaker or they would have been finalists as seventh graders in a division ranging from grades 7-9, so the future of our program looks good, too! Our one other international competitor was rising senior Joy Li who missed out on a top three position this year, but was “merely” the first place alternate champion last year as a sophomore.
Go Harker FPSers!