2009 Vernon L Smith High School Workshop in Experimental Economics

In July 2009, IFREE sponsored two successful and inspiring high school workshops in experimental economics, hosted by the Economic Science Institute at Chapman University. The one-week workshops were taught by Dr. Kyle Hampton, a GMU Ph.D. formerly supported by IFREE. Kyle has recently accepted a position as Director of the Alaska Center for Economic Education, and as Assistant Professor of Economics, at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He received great reviews from the students and reportedly sparked interest in the subject through his “great word choices, enthusiasm and pop culture references in Power Point”.

For the first time, IFREE sponsored several travel scholarships offered to students from outside the local California area. Implemented to attract highly motivated students, the travel scholarships appealed to those willing to compete with qualified local students for a small number of tuition–free workshop spots. The travel scholarships will help sustain the high quality expectations of the program and its reputation with the teachers who recommend the program to their most able and learning-motivated students.

According to Kyle Hampton and Bart Wilson, there were several potential experimental economists among the attendees who expressed an interest in pursuing economics as a major in college; many are now expressing an interest in applying for an IFREE sponsored internship in the near future. Over the years the high school workshops have sparked keen interest in the study of economics and in the unique and particular vantage point that experimental economics fosters.

One workshop participant was from China, attending school in Virginia. Upon returning home, he wrote a thank-you letter, a portion of which is included below. The letter expresses sentiments common to the great majority of students who attended the workshops, and illustrates why these workshops are a central part of the IFREE mission of anchoring the discovery of socio-economic principles with methods based on learning-by-doing. IFREE-sponsored workshop participants explore both theory and how it operates in practical applications.

“How fast time passed! One week [since] the economics workshop has gone already and I am in Beijing now. Because the program was such a wonderful experience, I would like to share some of my thoughts I got from the workshop. Although the program was only a week long, I sincerely enjoyed every class you taught and learned a lot about experimental economics, something we don’t often learn in high school…. the experiments were very inspiring. From your teaching I learned that economics is a science significantly influenced by human behavior and that the inter-dependence between different people…decides the outlook of a market….. I was fascinated by all the experiments, especially the trust game! The [experiments] were all close simulations of real life situations….I have a genuine interest in economics and have been considering a major in economics in college. This workshop confirms to me the charm of this science and my determination to study it in the future…..I know that economics can certainly change a country and the world, and I would really like to try my best at this area. …Thank you so much for your ceaseless passion and inspiration! This workshop was truly a great experience!”

Here are some additional excerpts from the student evaluations, which demonstrate the enthusiasm and excitement about the workshop:

  • “The best experiment from the workshop was ‘Innovation’ because it really gave me a different perspective on the future of our economy and how mankind has developed.”
  • “The most interesting topics were about the market itself and how it was used in the real world.”
  • “It was so fascinating to be part of the experiments and then learn about methods after. I loved it.”
  • “It was wonderful, the best program I’ve ever attended.”
  • “Game theory was very mind boggling. The tying in with psychology was very eye-opening too. The experiments were fun and also educational.”
  • “It was a magnificent way of having a better understanding of economics.”
  • “Economics becomes a lot more understandable and practical, plus experiments provide information on human reasoning.”
  • “Dr. Hampton is one of the best teachers/lecturers I’ve seen.”