After a five-year hiatus, a Penn team has won at the Philadelphia regional level of the Fed Challenge and will advance to the national competition in D.C.
The Fed Challenge competition challenges students to analyze the state of the economy and create a monetary policy for Federal Reserve banks. After their win on Nov. 7, the four-member team of Penn students will be moving on to the final, national round of the competition on Dec. 2.
The last time Penn participated in the Fed Challenge was five years ago. Penn had stopped participating when the faculty supervisor for the team left the University, according to team member and Wharton sophomore Peter Chung.
“I can tell you that the policy proposal was well researched,” current faculty advisor to the team and economics professor Frank Schorfheide said in an email. “The students demonstrated command of the current monetary policy questions and reviewed academic-style research to develop and support their monetary policy proposal.”
Chung, who participated in the high school Fed Challenge, decided to start a team again at the beginning of this year along with College senior and vice president of the Undergraduate Economics Society Charles Rubenfeld. Together, they ran interviews to find two more members, Engineering freshman Ashok Rao and College freshman Ian Masters.
With help from research assistants, the team read and analyzed economic papers and criticisms to prepare them for the competition, which consisted of two parts: a presentation of the monetary policy proposal, and a question and answer session with several judges.
Team members described their experience in the challenge as having to “pretend to be Ben Bernanke and say what you think the federal reserve should do,” Rubenfeld said.
However the difficulty did not come from the policy itself. For the team, the biggest challenge they faced was a time crunch. “We threw everything together in two to three weeks,” Rubenfeld said.
The team did not expect to win the regional competition. Other schools, including Lafayette College, who won the Philadelphia regional several times in the past, have a class dedicated to preparing for the competition.
“This year, I expected this would be a work-in-progress to get us more established,” Chung said. Despite the disadvantages, Penn beat out nine other schools to take first place.
The team continues to prepare for the final round, working specifically on their ability to respond to judges questions.
“We’re not that nervous because we didn’t come in thinking we were going to win,” Rubenfeld said. “Now that we have won, we are definitely more confident going into nationals.”
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