Butler students win competition

A group of Butler High School's gifted students have won a statewide competition for their keen problem-solving skills, and will compete at the international level this summer.
The students beat out nine other Future Problem Solving of America teams to win first place in the senior division of the competition. Their ideas on food distribution will place them among international students in June.
Quentin Mays, a Butler High senior, said he hopes to one day see his team's ideas on global food distribution put into practice.
"We proposed that smaller farms be broken down, so people can support themselves, depend on their own crops and depend less on national aid," Quentin said. "I think our solution was the most precise. We came together as a team."
Only about 3 percent of the 250,000 international FPSA participants make it to the international conference, which will be held in La Crosse, Wis., from June 10 to June 14. Westside High School's team also won second place in the middle division of the competition. Both teams will advance to the FPSA International Conference, along with teams from Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand. The 10 team members, six from Butler and four from Westside, are attempting to raise close to $10,000 for their first appearance in the international competition to go toward lodging, airfare and other expenses.
Ann Beth Strelec, gifted program teacher and FPSA coach, said the students began researching food distribution shortly after Christmas break, and were challenged to use a six-step solution plan on the topic. The teams have advanced to the state level the last three years. In the international competition, the students are challenged to produce ideas on how green living can be accomplished 50 years from now.
Like the cusp of the gifted program, the problem-solving competition challenges the advanced thinkers to use their intellectual abilities to solve major problems, Strelec said.
"These students need intellectual stimulation. They have special needs," she said. "The competition gives them the opportunity to apply their advanced thinking in a creative way."
Travis Moore, a Butler sophomore, took part in the statewide team competition last year, and won first place in individual problem-solving this year. He said that it was difficult to produce a solution to global food distribution, but his past experience with the competition helped. 
"It's hard not having the spice of other people's ideas, but I was lucky enough to come up with a solution just in time to finish. A lot of people don't get to finish," he said.
Strelec said neither the school system nor the state can afford to fund the trip to the competition, so she hopes the community will help get the students to Wisconsin.
"It'll be tough to raise the money, considering everything," she said. "I'm bound and determined for my students to go. Money would be a sorely reason for them not to go. They're extremely intelligent, and have worked hard to get this far."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 828-2946or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

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