The Econ Games is a data competition cofounded by Dr. Abdullah Al-Bahrani (Northern Kentucky University) and Dr. Darshak Patel (University of Kentucky) to introduce students to what many economics graduates do in their day job – analysing large volumes of data to understand emerging patterns and trends and the reasons for these patterns. Each year, a client provides competing teams with a large dataset, asking them to come up with an interesting research questions that can be answered using these data, and then answering it via a short presentation. The organisers conceptualised this as a mini-internship (over a weekend), to immerse undergraduate students into the world of professional economists.
UCL were the first international team to be invited to participate. This year’s client was the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, whose broad-ranging dataset included very recent information on what was happening in various parts of the economy over the past year of disruptions. Prof. Parama Chaudhury acted as advisor for the UCL teams – 52 students from different UCL programmes across 13 teams participated. A panel from CTaLE, who initially selected the best submissions to be entered into the main competition, also selected a UCL Top 3, who will receive their awards during Explore Econ 2021.
A few students who took part in The Econ Games reflected on their experience:
“It was a good way to see how our knowledge from multiple aspects of our degree could be pulled together: using data analysis to come to macroeconomics conclusions and develop policies. Overall, it was very valuable to participate in a real world application of our degree content.”
Louis Allen, Economics Y2
“I learned a lot through Econ Games 2021. For the past three years, I have been focusing on doing technical data analysis based on different regression models. This competition offered me an opportunity to get familiarised with data cleaning process and data visualisation which are inevitable steps when explaining the data.”
Li Weizhi, Economics Y3
“Eye-opening and intensely rewarding. While we didn’t start off as well as we might have liked, what we learned from both the warmup projects and the real thing was incredibly useful both in the competition itself and likely in the future too.”
Apratim Shastri, Economics Y1
One UCL team made it through to The Econ Games final with a presentation titled “Is the Pandemic Creating an Economically Lost Generation?” by Alexandru-Victor Botorog, Louis Allen, Anastasiia Skuratova and Matthew Vaz. The final 3 teams had 48 hours to take in their feedback and refine their original policy memos in time for a live presentation on 12 March, which also included a Q&A with Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland judges Mark Schweitzer (Senior Vice President), Dionissi Aliprantis (Senior Research Economist) and Joel A Elvery (Policy Economist). The UCL team were in good company with teams from the University of Kentucky and Mount Royal University.
The live final ceremony was a real highlight as it was great to see our students presenting before an international audience and fielding questions from senior economists from the Fed. Alex, Louis, Anastasiia and Matthew ultimately won 3rd place and we are all very proud!
The students who took part in The Econ Games only had positive things to say and provided encouragements and advice for future participants:
“For me, the final challenge was fantastic despite the stress – when we finished I was so proud of the presentation.”
Neil Majithia, Economics Y1
“I would suggest that [they] narrow down the topic a little bit in the final competition and don’t worry too much about the technical aspects (e.g. how complicated your economic model is etc) because the game is mainly about data visualisation. And don’t be afraid to challenge yourself or to step out of your comfort zone.”
Lei Chu, Economics Y3
“I would definitely encourage other students to participate in the Econ Games if they want to improve their data analytics, presentation, and research skills. It is a great opportunity to better understand how data is used to guide public policy decisions.”
Alex Botorog, Economics Y2
Hopefully UCL will get to participate again next time around!