The Econ Games: Telling a Data Story

We spoke to Economics Senior Lecturer Darshak Patel about the upcoming Econ Games Virtual competition. The first round begins on March 5. Learn more.

When was the Econ Games founded and how did the idea come about?

The current version of the Econ Games was founded two years ago. I wanted to provide an opportunity for students to apply their economic education in a real-world setting. I reached out to a corporate partner to see if they were interested in sharing a dataset for our students to use as practice.

The Econ Games is designed to "connect students with real-world opportunities to apply what they learn in the classroom." Can you provide an example?

Students have had the opportunity to work on industry data in order to create and drive value. Last year’s data was on Kroger sparkling water. Students were asked to do a “category strategy” by combing through the data and providing recommendations on how to help Kroger win in that space. After the data was released, students had six hours to analyze it with group members they have never worked with before, create a presentation, and present to our industry partners. For this year's competition, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is a data collaborator.

What type of data will the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland provide, and how will it be used in the competition?

The dataset is always a surprise to both students and faculty until the day of the event. This year we have expanded this opportunity to 18 schools. Students will receive access to the dataset on March 5. Each school will then pick the best submission to represent their school and submit to the FED on March 8. The FED will pick the top three submissions that will present live on March 12.

How do you believe this challenge will enhance students' economics education and/or prepare them for future careers?

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), soft skills most in demand include critical thinking, problem solving, oral and written communication, collaboration and digital technology. Our event motivates students to strengthen these skills: big data, working with new team members, technology, time constraints, and most importantly – telling an economics data story.

It sounds like a great way to learn valuable job skills.

Yes, I like to think of this event as “interning for a day/weekend.” Students gain experience in one weekend that others do over a 3-month internship. We have students who have received job offers because of the Econ Games experience. Our students always ask what economists do. And the Econ Games helps answer that question – and build their skill sets and portfolios in the process.

What is your favorite aspects of this competition?

The opportunities it creates for a diverse set of students. Not all students are able to find relevant internships. Students should not be excluded from opportunities due to differences in academic abilities. This event helps our students to gain the skills needed to be successful in the real world. We are building a community that will hopefully support and create opportunities for each other. The beauty of this program is not only the opportunities we provide for our students, but it’s exciting to see faculty invested in the welfare of our students. It's exciting to see us grow from two to 18 schools. Ultimately, our goal is to provide opportunities to all of our students from freshmen to seniors with varying levels of GPAs.