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Culver Academies students win Future Problem Solvers state championship

Tom Coyne

Future Problem Solvers team. (Photo by Tom Coyne)


A team of Culver Academies students won the Future Problem Solvers state championship in just the club’s second year of existence.

“I’m really proud of the students for all the hard work they put in,” said Clara Lee a humanities fellow and coach of the team.

Ray (Xinlang) Fan ’25, Irene (Sau Fong) Lin ’25. Tyler Li ’25 and sisters Chloe Raymundo ’25 and Carridee Raymundo beat out nine other teams that advanced through the regionals to win the state title. One of the teams they beat was another Culver Academies team of Bowen Xiao ’25, Charles (Mianchen) Zhang '25, Kevin (Haoxiang) Zhang ’25 and Jack (Haowei) Hua '25 that finished in third place.

The academic competition seeks to inspire students to apply problem-solving skills and critical and creative thinking to hypothetical situations. The program looks at technological, geopolitical and societal trends and projects those trends 20 to 30 years into the future to train students to develop solutions to challenges they may face as adults. 

“It’s very fun,” Lin said. “Part of it is because I have a lot of friends in it. The other part is it’s a bit rare to have the opportunity to think about futuristic problems and what solutions might be available because we’re so focused on the present.”

The problem the students had to answer at the state competition was about the challenges of autonomous transportation in a big international city such as Istanbul and how to deal with weather and other problems, including not allowing people to drive in the center of the city. Students had to consider economic, political, social and ethical problems.

The students had to explain their reasoning and why they chose one solution over another.

“It’s a very collaborative process,” Lee said.

Different teams have different ways of dividing the work. Lin said her team made a list of issues they identified and divided them up with each student filling out their sections.

“We’re looking for a variety of problems and then we condense it into one big underlying problem then we provide solutions for that,” Lin said.


Tyler Li '25, Carridee Raymundo '25, Ray (Xinlang) Fan '25 and Chloe Raymundo '25 were members of the team that won the Indiana state championship. (Photo by Tom Coyne)


Fan said among the problems their team identified was that artificial intelligence would override the route people wanted the car to go. Another problem they identified is wealthy people being able to pay extra so their trips would be streamlined.

He said the team came up with an innovative solution of using sentient artificial intelligence that would incorporate human factors into the autonomous vehicles.

Students were given 2.5 hours to complete their answers. The competition was online, so the students didn’t know who they were competing against.

“I wasn’t worried about winning. I was just trying to get the best product we could get in the time frame we had,” Lin said.

Lee said a good Future Problem Solver is “someone who is able to think on their feet and also able to see past the initial problem and think a little bit deeper.”

The students began meeting in September, using questions asked in previous years as practice examples. They then submitted their practice answers in December and received feedback from judges to help them prepare for regional competition.

Lee, who teaches American studies with advanced placement English language, said she had never heard of Future Problem Solvers before she saw an email from David An ’23 last year seeking a sponsor.

“From the beginning this has been very much student-driven,” Lee said.

Lee said she was interested in getting involved because the organization aligned with what she values as a teacher, such as critical thinking, research and writing skills.

“So, I was happy to join on,” she said.

The team finished second place last year at state despite being new to the competition.

The Culver state champions now advance to the in-person international competition that will be held at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, on June 5-9.

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