In 15 seconds, Iolani team takes national economics championship
It's all about the widgets for Iolani School, which has won the National Economics Challenge Championship title.
This is not merely a recycled headline from last year. They did it again, the second year in a row. The competition is sponsored by the National Council on Economic Education and the Goldman Sachs Foundation.
Cheered on by teacher Richard Rankin, seniors Megan Chock, Bryce Aisaka, Egan Atkinson and Dean Ushijima heard the words, "We have a national champion!" after answering the contest-winning question with "$5."
The question was "If the per-unit cost of producing 30 widgets is $6, and the fixed costs are $30, what is the average variable cost of producing 30 widgets?"
The team had 15 seconds to confer and come up with the winning answer during the competition's lightning round against the only other possible national champion contender this year -- Moorhead High School in Minnesota.
Each student's prize was considerably more than the winning answer -- $3,000 and a trophy.
Rankin shared an account of the tense competition, staged in the New York City Public Library auditorium.
"Hawaii jumped out to a lead right out of the starting block. They never looked back as they built the lead to nine with nine questions remaining. Minnesota made a go of it by getting the next two questions correct, but then came the widget question and it was over."
"I'm just full of pride," he told TheBuzz, after taking in theatrical production of "The Phantom of the Opera."
This second straight win "means even more than it has in the past," Rankin said, because the level of competition has increased. "I'm thrilled to see so many students interested in economics, and for my kids to be so successful after working so hard -- hard work pays off," said the retired Army colonel. People believe he pushes the students hard because of his military background, but it is the students who push, practicing four times a week, he said.
Rankin was named the Nasdaq Economics Teacher of the Year in 2001.
Iolani and Moorhead competed against Oceanside High School in Oceanside, N.Y., and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis in the Adam Smith division of the championships -- designed for advanced placement, international baccalaureate and honors students.
The Iolani team won the state championship in early April and went to the Western Region Economics Challenge in Los Angeles in late April, which they won, defeating schools at which economics courses are required.
"It came down to California versus Hawaii ... it was a really tough competition," Rankin said. "We barely squeaked through and won in sudden death." Who knew econ could be so nail-bitingly dramatic?
The trips to LA and NYC were expenses-paid, so there were no bake-sales or short-term Wall Street investments for fundraising. Parents paid for extras such as theater and baseball tickets for the kids, Rankin said.
Chock aspires to become a doctor, but the competition factor in her economics class "made it a lot more fun than actually studying," she laughed. She's considering a minor in economics.
Beyond the win, to have represented Iolani for a second-in-a-row national championship, "that's everything to me," said Atkinson. "Iolani has been my school for 13 years and it's my senior year. I couldn't be happier to do the school an honor like this. It falls on them, really, because that's where I learned my economics."
Atkinson is considering a business career in the medical field.
Aisaka and Ushijima are both considering engineering careers, but Aisaka says the economics education "is about decision-making" and will "be useful no matter what."
Rankin arranged for the students to have lunch with Iolani graduates working on Wall Street. "It was pretty impressive, meeting with all of them, they're pretty successful," said Ushijima. They living and working a long way from home, but after meeting them, Ushijima noted "it would probably be worth it."
The team arrives home this evening at about 6 p.m.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com