The First Year Challenge: Multimedia undergraduate research (and beyond)

FYC picture
Par Parama Chaudhury, CTaLE Director
mar 2nd juin 2020 | Blog

Every year at UCL, the First Year Challenge (FYC) yields a vibrant range of creative submissions by first year economics students, and the 2018 competition was no different (you can find all the shortlisted videos here). This competition involves groups of students who are assigned a key location in central London. Their task: create a two-minute video or podcast related the location on the theme of “Capitalism, Growth and Inequality” discussed in Unit 1 of The Economy.

The locations we chose for 2018 were a mix of buildings and institutions, including The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and Senate House, and memorials for historical figures such as William Beveridge and Dame Millicent Fawcett.

Students chose to use a variety of technical skills. They combined drawings, innovative graphics, acting, time-lapse photography, and background music. Each group was extremely creative in taking their location and finding a link to the assigned theme, and all the entries had intriguing content. As expected for a project based on Unit 1 of The Economy, many groups included the industrial revolution as a theme for how the location linked to changes in labour regulations, wages, business expansion and living standards.

And the winners are …

TUTG S3, who used animated drawings to discuss the relationship between technological advances, living standards and labour institutions like trade unions.

TUTM 2, who did a creative enactment of William Beveridge’s five giant evils. Each group member took on an evil, and explained its relation to the UK.

Other highlights included:

  • TUTI 1’s submission (here) linked Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity to the gravity theory of trade, which was particularly relevant in the light of the current discussions surrounding Britain’s trade post-Brexit.
  • TUTM 1 (here) were assigned to Senate House. They discovered that Eileen Orwell, wife of George, had worked for the Ministry of Information, that was based there, and her experience was an inspiration for his description of the Ministry of Truth in his book 1984. This group linked the economic system in 1984 and compared it to today’s world in a high-quality presentation.

The future of the FYC

Since we created the FYC in 2014, it has grown in profile.

  • It has been adopted at the University of Bristol, among others.
  • It was the inspiration for CORE’s Schools Economics Challenge.
  • In February, we ran the first UCL Economics Challenge for Schools, (right) a project targeting students from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented at university so we can widen participation in education and introduce them to the excitement of studying economics.
  • And in December 2018, I presented at the invited session of the Spanish Economics Association’s Economics Education Committee, discussing how other universities can use a project like the FYC to help students develop skills in research, collaboration and presentation.

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