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Caloosa Middle team wins state ‘problem solving’ competition

By Staff | Apr 19, 2010

One unique concept for global food distribution earned four students from Caloosa Middle School a chance to participate in an international competition in Wisconsin this summer.
Melissa Biggs, Skyler Hammer, Stella Dunham and Kayla Nicely, members of the school’s Florida Future Problem Solving team, won first place at a state competition in Cape Canaveral last week, and as a result, they received an invitation to attend the Future Problem Solving Global Issues Competition at the University of Wisconsin in June.
Patricia Brewer, problem solving coach for the past six years, said the competition required students to conduct a massive amount of research before arriving at Cape Canaveral.
“It was challenging so they were nervous about it,” said Brewer. “They were thrilled because they never had a Lee County team come in first.”
Before students attended the competition last week, they were provided with a future scenario called the Nereid Project, which the district described in a press release as “a group of robotic aquapods or floating fisheries which produce millions of high protein fish from genetically-modified fish eggs for the world seafood market.”
District coordinator for Gifted Education, Cathy Cochrane, said coaches helped teams of four students to research their topic. Caloosa Middle has a class devoted to problem solving, but Cochrane said other schools use these scenarios as part of their curriculum.
She explained that students had two hours to write a document that analyzes a problem within the Neired Project, identifies specific problems and drafts an action plan to deal with those problems.
“The writing is vigorous, it has to be clear and logical,” said Cochrane.
And they face off against students from Singapore, Korea, Russia, Japan, New Zealand and other countries from all over the world, she said.
Brewer said most of the research used was documenting food distribution after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The only difference was that students faced a problem set in the year 2065.
Multiple teams from Brewer’s class competed to be able to go to regionals and the regional winners faced off to decide which would go to states. Once they start each competition they aren’t allowed any resources and have to remember everything they researched from memory, she said.
“They have nothing with them but something to write with,” said Brewer.
Staff at Caloosa Middle is now trying to raise enough funding to send the four students and their coach to Wisconsin in June. Brewer said the trip will cost approximately $500 per student and because their state win happened only a week ago, they don’t yet have any events planned to raise money.
“It happened so quickly we have talked about things like car washes and we’ll talk to our business partners to see if there is anything they can sponsor for us,” said Brewer.
Other Lee County schools at the competition included Manatee Elementary, coached by Stefanie Stevens and Mark McDonagh; Tropic Isles Elementary, coached by Lana Shakman and Brandy Macchia; and North Fort Myers High, coached by Charlie Ewell.