For Allison Collier, winning an international prize came down to reimagining the moon.
Collier, a rising junior at Battle High School, recently won the Scenario Writing contest in the Future Problem Solving Program International competition in the senior division.
In the competition, students apply their critical-thinking and creative problem-solving skills to futuristic scenarios in a competitive setting.
Students are challenged to develop imagined but logical short stories out of one of five given topics in Scenario Writing. This year, Collier took on terraforming, or transforming a place so it resembles Earth.
“It’s a broad topic, and there are lots of ways it could go, so I tried to get a general understanding of the key ideas and technologies that would be used,” Collier said.
To further specify time, place and historical background of the imagined world, Collier settled on writing about colonizing the moon in the year 2055.
For Collier, the goal of scenario writing is to thoroughly research the topic then project it into the future. But the story has to resonate with readers.
“For my story, I tried to look at terraforming from an everyday person’s perspective,” Collier said. “What would they see when they looked up at the moon and saw people literally shaping it to fit their needs? How would they feel about that?”
Matt Leuchtmann, the program coordinator for Columbia Aeronautics and Space Association and a K-12 gifted education specialist at Battle, leads the teams at Battle High School that participated in the Future Problem Solving Program International.
“The blending of creative problem-solving and futuristic thinking teaches students that it is possible to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems both now, and in the future — regardless of their difficulty or scope,” Leuchtmann said.
To advance to the international competition, students need to win the senior division at the Missouri level. However, sometimes it’s not easy to get to the competition because attending in person means paying the entry fee and buying plane tickets.
“I was oddly kind of lucky this year because of the COVID-19 situation,” Collier said. “If it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been able to go to the international competition, but it was online this year.”
Collier has participated in the Future Problem Solving International Competition since seventh grade. Even though she placed pretty high every time, this was her first big win.
She said it felt kind of unreal when she learned she’d won, especially since she had only two days to research, draft and complete the piece.
Collier said she enjoys writing fiction.
“The part of scenario writing I enjoy most is taking science and future technology and all these heavy topics, which are sometimes seen as unapproachable, and then giving it a face through fiction and making it fun and approachable,” she said.
Collier also likes journalistic writing and last year enjoyed working for Battle’s newspaper, The Spearhead.
Leuchtmann said he has led teams participating in Future Problem Solving Program International since 2006, at other schools before he joined Battle. Many of the teams from Battle finished in the top 20 at the international level.
“However, we have never had a top-three finish, much less an international championship,” Leuchtmann said. “Allison’s first-place scenario writing finish is an amazing accomplishment, and we are all very proud of her.”