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Example: Future Scene – Ocean Soup

Set in 2035, the scene challenges students to help floating science laboratories in a quest to protect the Hawaiian islands from the devastating effects of ocean soup. As growing awareness creates more organizations, agencies, and governments working toward ocean pollution problems, the fictional Ola Kai Project narrows its focus from ocean pollution to ocean soup. Ocean Soup is a very specific and narrowed topic – ocean soup does not refer to all debris or pollution in the ocean; it refers only to those small pieces of plastic below the surface.

Additional Information
Competition Season: 2012-2013 (Affiliate Finals)
Divisions: Middle/Senior
Context: In competition, students see the future scene for the first time right as they begin their timed writing submission. They must consider the parameters (time, topic, and place) of the future scene when working through the problem-solving process.
Topic: Ocean Soup
Time: 2035
Place: Island-state of Hawai‘i, floating labs
Original Formatting: See the future scene with its original formatting in an attached PDF below.

Ocean Soup Future Scene

As Jobie Sakai leans on the railing of the Ola Kai, she admires the beauty of her ocean paradise. Jobie, a fifth generation Hawaiian devoted to the future of her homeland, is dedicated to her job as an environmental chemist aboard the Ola Kai #6, one of Hawai‘i’s floating science laboratories. The Ola Kai (meaning “healthy ocean”) Project is a combined effort of the Hawaiian Environmental Council and the University of Hawai‘i. Now, in 2035 after 15 active years, the project is struggling to live up to its nickname: the OK Project.

Originally, the OK Project focused on the waters affected by Hawai‘i’s island-generated pollutants. Public interest in the project led to a resurgence in eco-education; recycling and the reduced use of plastics became an accepted part of island life for Hawai‘i residents. The “adopt a beach” clean-up program became a popular draw for eco-tourists. However, researchers like Jobie became increasingly aware that their efforts were not enough.

The world’s largest manufacturers of plastic products border both sides of the Pacific. A ten million square mile system of rotating currents called the North Pacific Gyre has its axis near the 137 islands of the Hawaiian chain. Pacific environmental regulations have historically been weak or disregarded by heavy industrial nations who continue to use these waters as a dumping ground. Consequently, the 1500 mile-long archipelago paradise has been attacked by ocean soup for many years.

The soup surrounds Hawai‘i, placing the islands and their resources at risk of permanent damage. Especially vulnerable are the sparsely-inhabited northwest islands, the world’s largest protected marine sanctuary that is home to many endangered fish, birds, seals, and Hawai‘i’s beleaguered fishing industry. Eco-tourism routes have been altered to reduce impact on indigenous species and circumnavigated due to the location of floating laboratories.

With the increasing damaging effects from ocean soup on the island chain, Jobie and her coworkers realized that the Ola Kai Project’s numerous floating labs had to broaden their territory while narrowing their focus. Due to the scope of the damage, the project directors reached out to other groups working in the Pacific and consulted with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was determined that the best approach would be to divide up the responsibilities among agencies. Now the OK Project labs focus solely on the battle against microplastics, leaving the collection of larger trash to other organizations.

Ola Kai laboratory crews record various data for analysis, keeping track of multiple fish species and beneficial organisms like plankton. Specified lab crews weigh the microplastic debris collected on a weekly basis and compile that data while Jobie and other chemists continue their in-depth examination of the plastic degradation and its effect on the waters surrounding the islands.

Collection of debris that is smaller than a pencil eraser has often done more harm than good to sea life. After experimenting with several collection methods, the OK Project currently uses below-surface robotic collectors that randomly collect plastic particles being carried by the currents. Project teams are also experimenting with alternative collection methods, including new nanofiber sieves and use of pollution-dissolving lasers.

Ola Kai’s floating labs have plastic-to-fuel conversion systems capable of harvesting tons of plastic pollution and converting it into diesel fuel for the labs, thus eliminating the need to return to shore for disposal of the waste in a landfill. In spite of their progress, water samples still show an alarming amount of plastic particles.

Jobie Sakai turns from the sight of her beloved homeland to address eco-volunteers who are on board to help with the data reports. “Aloha. I thank you for devoting your time and energy to our project. After analyzing the impact of the OK Project on the Hawaiian Islands, select a major issue that the Ola Kai Project faces and use good problem-solving skills to address the issue you select. Let’s get to work.”

Disclaimer: Future scene may have been adjusted by Future Problem Solving for format, clarity and content.

Attachment – Competition PDF (Middle)

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April Michele

April Michele Bio

Executive Director

A seasoned educator, April Michele has served as the Executive Director since 2018 and been with Future Problem Solving more than a decade. Her background in advanced curriculum strategies and highly engaging learning techniques translates well in the development of materials, publications, training, and marketing for the organization and its global network. April’s expertise includes pedagogy and strategies for critical and creative thinking and providing quality educational services for students and adults worldwide.

Prior to joining Future Problem Solving, April taught elementary and middle grades, spending most of her classroom career in Gifted Education. She earned the National Board Certification (NBPTS) as a Middle Childhood/Generalist and later served as a National Board Assessor for the certification of others. She was trained and applied the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) in Humanities, which helped widen the educational scope and boundaries beyond the U.S. In addition, April facilitated the Theory and Development of Creativity course for state level certification of teachers. She has also collaborated on a variety of special projects through the Department of Education.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and the University of South Florida with a master’s in Gifted Education, April’s passion is providing a challenging curriculum for 21st century students so they are equipped with the problem solving and ethical leadership skills they need to thrive in the future. As a board member in her local Rotary Club, she facilitates problem solving in leadership at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute and earned her certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Edyth Bush Institute at Rollins College.