Course Project Information
VII Trento Summer School

Agent-Based Computational Economics

Last Updated: 15 June 2006

Co-Director Contact Information:
Leigh Tesfatsion
tesfatsi AT

Syllabus for VII Trento Summer School (Tesfatsion)

General Information on Course Projects:

You are encouraged (but not required) to work in teams for your course projects. Project teams can be self-selected. However, it is highly recommended that project teams not include more than four members.

Examples of suitable types of course projects include: (1) a review and critique of existing ACE-related work focusing on a particular issue of interest; (2) the design and running of experiments to study an ACE-related issue of interest using existing software; and (3) the design and running of illustrative experiments to demonstrate the capabilities of an originally constructed ACE framework. Students turning in high-quality course projects will be offered a chance to web-publish their projects at the ACE Website.

A list of possible course project topics is given below for your consideration. Alternatively, if desired, you can tailor the topic and scope of your course project to your particular backgrounds and interests as long as your project is in clear relation to Agent-based Computational Economics (ACE).

Schedule for Preliminary Course Project Presentations
and Final Reports:

Students are strongly encouraged to begin consideration of possible course project topics as soon as possible.

Each project individual or team will be asked to turn in a preliminary written outline of their course project by July 10, and brief in-class presentations of these course project proposals will be scheduled to permit constructive comments and suggestions from course-mates.

Final course project reports will be scheduled for presention during the last (third) week of the summer school.

Instructions for Preparation of Final Project Reports:

The exact length and form of each course project final report will depend on the topic and type of report. Ideally, the reports should be comprehensive enough that readers can easily grasp what has been done without having to contact you with questions.

Written parts of your final reports should be TYPED if at all possible for easier readability. They should be CLEAR AND SELF-SUFFICIENT DESCRIPTIONS of your course project work that include the following FOUR ASPECTS:

  1. A careful description of the SPECIFIC QUESTIONS (HYPOTHESES) you have explored in your literature critique (experimental study), and a clear discussion of the relation of these questions (hypotheses) to ACE.

  2. A careful description of the PROCESS you have used to address (explore) these questions (hypotheses). For example, for a literary critique, you should discuss the criteria you used to select the papers you critiqued in view of the questions you listed above in part 1. For a course project involving experimentation, you should carefully set out your experimental design in relation to the hypotheses you listed above in part 1.

  3. A careful description of your FINDINGS regarding the questions (experimental hypotheses) you listed above in part 1 for your literature critique (experimental study), and a careful attempt to analyze and explain these findings in terms of maintained assumptions (maintained conditions and treatment factor specifications).

  4. A list of REFERENCES that includes a complete citation for any work by someone else (e.g., book, article, web site, software,...) that you used in part or in whole for your course project. Each citation should include a complete list of authors/co-authors, the specific outlet (journal name, book title, web page title and URL, etc.), the publishing company (if published) or the institutional affiliation of the authors/co-authors (if a working paper, web page, or some other institutionally supported outlet), volume/issue numbers and/or page numbers (if published), and year of publication or release. The citations in your reference list should permit a reader of your report to locate and access any reference of interest.


    Please be sure to follow standard scholarly procedures in preparing your final course project reports. The use of other people's ideas or work is perfectly acceptable as long as full and proper credit is given to them. This means, in particular, that any quoted or paraphrased ideas or work taken from a source should be explicitly attributed to that source, and a full citation for that source should be included in your list of references if the source is in some publicly accessible form (e.g., not a private letter or a personal communication). Also, any exact quotes from other persons should be included within quotation marks.

A List of Possible Suitable Course Projects:


Consider the following list of research areas with linked resource sites. Each resource site indicates key issues related to the topic area, links to researchers and/or research groups currently investigating the topic area, and pointers to related software.

Choose two or more research articles (not surveys) from one of these research area sites. After consulting with the Co-Directors regarding the suitability of these choices, prepare a careful written critique of the research presented in these articles in accordance with the general "final project report" guidelines provided above.


Visit the ACE Computational Laboratories and Demonstration Software Site. Select one of the demos available at this site which provides enough facility to carry out interesting experimental studies in a reasonably rigorous way (e.g., at the level permitted by the Cook Schelling Segregation Demo used in Exercise 2).

Examples of possible demo choices include: Chris Cook's Schelling Segregation Model Demo; Chris Cook's The Axelrod Tournament Demo; Andy Schlei's Hunter-Gatherer Demo ("Hunters"), and the Trade Network Game Demo by Stewart, McFadzean, and Tesfatsion. Each of these demos provides: (a) a home page with a detailed demo description; (b) instructions for the downloading and automatic installation of the demo on a Windows-based pc; and (c) a clear graphical user interface permitting serious experimentation (e.g., pseudo-random number seed capture for replication) with no original programming required.

Many other demo choices are possible. If you don't find something of interest to you at the above indicated sites, you can look elsewhere for a suitable demo to use. However, you will need to check carefully to ensure that whatever demo you select indeed provides the needed facility to undertake an interesting experimental study in a rigorous manner that relates to ACE.

After consulting with the Co-Directors regarding suitability, design and carry out some form of comprehensive experimental study with your selected demo software, using Exercises 1 and 2 (Schelling Demo Experiments) as your basic guide for carrying out your study.

Prepare a careful report of your experimental findings in accordance with the general final project report guidelines provided above.


Visit the ACE Computational Laboratories and Demonstration Software Site. Select one of the demos available at this site that is available as freeware (i.e., it is freely available and downloadable and has open-source code.) After consulting with the Co-Directors regarding suitability, modify or expand the capabilities of the demo to handle some new feature of interest to you that is clearly related to ACE.

Prepare a written report that includes (a) a careful description of the original demo's capabilities; (b) a careful description of the modifications/extensions you have made to the capabilities of the original demo; and (c) some illustrative experiments to demonstrate the modifications/extensions you have made.

If you cannot find a demo of interest at the above indicated site, you can look for a suitable demo elsewhere. However, you must be sure that any demo you select is related to ACE, is freely available for downloading, and has open-source code that you can modify or extend without any violation of proprietary licenses.

Alternatively, if truly ambitious, and with prior consultation with the Co-Directors, you can try coding up an application "from scratch" that is related to ACE. For this purpose, you might want to visit the ACE General Software and Toolkits Site and browse the availability of toolkits specifically design to facilitate the development of software for agent-based social science applications.

Previous Course Project Topics Chosen by Students in an ACE Course (Econ 308) regularly offered at Iowa State University:

Literature Critiques:

Experimental Studies using Previously Developed Software

Experimental Studies using Originally Developed Software

Copyright 2006 Leigh Tesfatsion. All Rights Reserved.