LEWISTOWN - This June, eight area high school students successfully tackled the issue of customized medicine and new technology. Their analytical skills impressed competition judges enough to name them among the top 10 Future Problem Solving teams in the world.
Two local teams of four students competed in the Future Problem Solving International Conference from June 7 to 10 in Bloomington, Ind.
The middle division team - freshmen Lucy Crawford, Grace Wagner, Jensen Graham and Paige Stewart - won first place in the USA and third place in the world, losing only to New Zealand and Great Britain.
The middle division Mifflin County Future Problem Solving team placed first in the national competition and third at the Future Problem Solving International Conference which was held from June 7 to 10 in Bloomington, Ind. Pictured are, from left: Lucy Crawford; Grace Wagner; Jack Anderson, adviser; Jensen Graham and Paige Stewart.
The senior team - seniors Ben Fowler, Suruchi Sheth, Nihar Suthar and Zach Moon - achieved eighth place worldwide out of 68 teams.
Both teams won top awards at the state competition to qualify for the international event.
At the competition, students had two hours to review a future scenario and develop potential challenges, solutions and a final action plan to address the issue.
This year's hypothetical situation occurred in 2037 when a pharmaceutical company created an individualized approach to medicine through a computerized system that customizes pills based on a patient's blood sample and medical history. Many insurance companies and regulatory agencies were skeptical of the IndiMED pill.
Fowler, who writes for the senior team, said they chose to focus on the problem of increasing the medical effectiveness of IndiMED and promoting its viability.
When they brainstormed solutions, Moon suggested investing money to increase education and quality of components in the pill, resulting in a better quality product.
Suthar suggested implanting a camera or monitoring device into the patient's blood stream that would send reports to the doctor.
Their final plan was based on Suthar's idea. Fowler developed their final action plan, which proposed using small monitors inside patients to measure metabolism, diet, behavior and other factors. These will constantly update the medication to cater to the patient's needs.
Reports from the medical feed could be used to demonstrate the IndiMED's effectiveness and convince countries and regulatory agencies that are unsure about the method, Fowler said. This, in turn, would open up the company's market and increase investments, he said.
Jack Anderson, adviser for the teams, described the competition as "grueling."
Even after students finish the actual competition, there is more work to do. Based on their plan, the students have to create a persuasional skit to demonstrate the effectiveness of their solution.
The teams have a limited number of props and two must-use mystery items - this year, a poncho and caterpillar.
The senior team pulled an idea from their adviser. Anderson, an experienced juggler, coached the students in some juggling techniques to incorporate in their skit.
"I'm proud of them taking on the risk," Anderson said.
He noted that this year's competition was at a greater level than he has ever seen before, making the accomplishments of the students even more impressive.
"Their success has put Mifflin County and our school district on the map," he said.
At the competition, the teams wore shirts listing the names of area sponsors who helped fund their trip to the international competition.
Anderson also thanked the parents for their support and willingness to travel with the students.
"Our parents have gone the extra mile to help our students achieve," he said.
The awards ceremony and talent show can be watched online at www.fpspi.org by clicking on "Intl Conference."