Matanzas sends 13 Future Problem Solvers to international competition

Project Won, Project Spill the Tea and Ava Muldoon in Scenario Writing all competed at states and received invites to international at Indiana.

Spill the TEA — Lily Lisowski, Megan Rhee, Olivia Chochev, Eva Luis, Brianna O’Malley and April Goebel — placed first in Community Problem Solving Senior Division at state. Courtesy photo
Spill the TEA — Lily Lisowski, Megan Rhee, Olivia Chochev, Eva Luis, Brianna O’Malley and April Goebel — placed first in Community Problem Solving Senior Division at state. Courtesy photo
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About 40 Flagler County students will be competing at the Future Problem Solving International Conference on June 5-9 at Indiana University in Bloomington. This is the second in a series featuring the students and their projects.

Matanzas High School’s Future Problem Solving club is sending two teams and an individual to the International competition.

Six freshmen collaborated on Project WON (World Oriented News), which placed second at the state competition in Community Problem Solving Civics and Culture Middle Division with an invite to the international competition.

Six sophomores have put together a weekly podcast they call Spill the TEA (Teaching, Entertaining and Advising), which won the CmPS Senior Division at state.

Ava Muldoon placed first in Scenario Writing Senior Division for her story, “The Edge of it all.”


William Wells, Tony Pacilli, Carter Ives, Dmytro Sanchenko, Landen Cangialosi and Cline Hansen are putting to rest the assumption that journalism is dying. Or at least they’re doing their part to convince their peers that it’s essential for them to know what’s going on in their world.

“In Flagler County, less than 50 percent of people actually watch the news,” Pacilli said. “It's 49. Granted, that's one percent, but still that's under half, so we saw that as a bit of a problem.”

So the group decided to create video news clips that are engaging and relatable to their peers. They post them on their instagram account, project_won_mhs. The segments are five minutes or less and cover a variety of topics with each group member providing a specialty.

Front: Tony Pacilli and Dmytro Sanchenko. Back: Landen Cangialosi, Cline Hansen and Carter Ives. Not pictured: William Wells. Project WON placed second at states in Community Problem Solving Middle Division. Courtesy photo

Sanchenko does school news. Ives reports on international affairs, which these days focuses on foreign wars. Cangialosi presents “Today in History.” Pacilli delivers the sports report, and Wells is the weather guy.

“We watch the news ourselves,” Pacilli said. “We spend hours watching segments and going over multiple news articles, and then, because we’re 14, 15 years old, we figure out how to make it as digestible as possible but still not miss the mark with what's being presented.”

What makes their reports different is they are not connected. For example, if you’re only interested in Matanzas school news, you can go directly to Sanchenko’s videos.

“I really love the idea of this project,” said Amy Kopach, Flagler Schools’ instructional technology specialist, who coaches the FPS club at Matanzas. “I do think that kids nowadays don't really watch the news. A lot of people don't even have cable anymore. We started talking at the beginning of the year, 'Are they getting their news from reliable sources? It was a little bit of a challenge, because you have to tell them, news is not supposed to be biased. So I do think it is an interesting topic for freshmen to be passionate about. I'm really proud of them.”

For the International Conference, the group plans to dress up: Cangialosi wearing a George Washington outfit, Sanchenko wearing Matanzas gear, Pacilli wearing Gators attire, Ives wearing a military uniform and Wells wearing a suit, just like a weatherman.

They’ve all stayed up till 2 or 3 in the morning editing their videos, they say. And while they make the material fun — other than the war news — they are very serious about their project.

Pacilli likens it to Project MESS (Math, English, Science and Social Studies) a tutoring project he and Wells were involved in last year in middle school that also received an international invite.

“That was kind of a similar project where we saw there was a lack of knowledge,” Pacilli said. “I guess it hits home with all of us. This year, we’re teaching common sense stuff, what’s going on, because you don’t want to live in your own bubble where you have no idea what’s happening around you.”


April Goebel, Megan Rhee, Lily Lisowski, Eva Luis, Brianna O’Malley and Olivia Chochev produce a weekly podcast that provide information geared to their peers.

“We talk about relatable teen things,” Luis said. “So, our first official episode was “Procrastination Nation.” We talk about ways to not procrastinate.”

Another episode was “Hit the brakes,” discussing students’ driving experiences.

“We are able to gather these topics through surveys and from personal encounters with peers at our school,” O’Malley said. “With “Hit the Brakes,” many freshmen are getting or have their permit and trying to get their license. So, being worried about, am I going to pass? They will communicate that with us and we'll make a podcast, telling them it's OK, it’s very normal to be worried about these things.”

They have had guest speakers talking about specific topics such as financial literacy, Rhee said.

They post every Saturday. The podcats can be accessed on Spotify.

“Being teenagers, they know what they want to hear,” Kopach said. “If they have a problem, they want to talk to their peers. And there's a lot of kids that don't have other people to talk to, so they thought that if they had real teen issues brought to you by teens, listened to by teens, that would reach a wider audience, and I think that they've done a really good job at coming up with some of their topics.”

At the state competition, they had a bucket where FPS students from other schools could fill out information cards.

“We had people put in suggestions for the podcast,” Lisowski said, “so that we can get a range of episodes for more people included in them.”


Kopach has been coaching FPS projects since 2012, her first year as a teacher at Rymfire Elementary School. She and her teaching partner were volunteered for the position. Now she is on the FPS Board for Florida’s Northeast District.

Ava Muldoon took first place in Scenario Writing Senior Division at states. Courtesy photo

As long as she’s been coaching, she had never coached Scenario Writing before.

“Ava approached me and said, ‘I really want to do this.’ So I said ‘OK, let me learn something new too so we learned along the way,” Kopach said.

In Scenario Writing, the student writes a creative piece set in the future. The topic that the international competitors will be writing about is air quality. Muldoon has done a lot of research on the topic, Kopach said. When she gets to internationals, she’ll be give a future scene, and she’ll have two hours to write a story based on the scene.

“She’ll have to read the (scene), develop all of her characters and then write a creative piece.”

Kopach said she never heard of FPS before she was chosen to coach. 

“Now I tell anyone who will listen that if this program is not at your school, you need it to get it. I have had parents come up to me and say their kids went through the program that are now in college and use these skills every day. And I know that my son (Ben, who is now in college) says the same thing, that this program developed who he is now. It's helped him with talking to people and thinking critically about problems.

“So the program is more than just what these kids are doing in projects every year. It really does teach them how to take  this system and apply it to their lives.”


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