2016-2017 Topics

First paragraphs of the upcoming topics:
(Complete descriptions are found on fpspi.org/topics.html.)

Educational Disparities

Education is considered to be the pathway to an informed, future-focused population. In many countries, education is publically funded by the central government or by state governments, with options for privately funded schools. In some countries, school funding / regulation is largely local and tied to property taxes. Other countries struggle to fund education at all. In addition to differences in funding, other economic and social factors contribute to educational disparities: family earnings, health status, gender, political participation, and social class.

It’s All in the Genes

The genes of organisms can be altered using biotechnology techniques. New genes can be inserted into plants and animals to create new varieties and breeds or to lessen certain genetic activity such as susceptibility to disease. Since 1970 GM has helped produce greater numbers of crops with higher nutritional value and has been prominent in animal agriculture. Critics claim there are serious ethical, ecological, and economic issues with GM techniques. For example, GM crops can cross-pollinate with non-GM crops creating unpredictable characteristics in plants. Bioherbicides and bioinsecticides can be added to crop seeds, but are not always effective. Resistant weeds now infest 75 million acres of land across the world. Domesticated animals are being genetically modified to produce proteins that have applications for human medicine – proteins to control blood clotting or kill cancer cells, for example.

3D Printing

3D printing is an emerging technology that was first used in arts and hobbies. Because of its widespread applications, 3D printing is now being used in business, medicine, and industry. In biochemistry, engineers create 3D printed body parts. NASA has a 3D printer on the International Space Station. The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking into the feasibility of building a base on the moon using 3D printing. 3D printers are already inexpensive enough to use at home and universal enough for schools to include them as part of their technology or “maker” programs. The technology continues to develop at a fast pace and many breakthroughs are on the horizon. Experts predict there will be improvements to printing speed and quality and that 3D printed food and 3D bioprinting will soon be the norm.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a form of stealing someone’s identity. Most often, identity thieves steal personal financial information, buy things for their own gain, and pay for none of it. Frequently, identity thieves gain access to personal information through business and government databases that are not secure. Dates of birth, full names, bank account details and identification numbers are part of the information sought by identity thieves. Stolen identities can be used to fund other crimes such as illegal immigration, terrorism, or drug crimes. It can be extremely difficult to find and prosecute identity thieves as they are often from different countries than the individuals whose identities they are stealing and they obtain personal details online.

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The 2017 International Conference Topic will be announced in March 2017.