Nerves were taut yesterday as schoolboy teams took part in the Carbon Trading Challenge. In two hours, they had to make as much money as possible by buying and selling oil. Unluckily for the winners, who made a Dh637,000 profit, it was only a simulation.
How to be an oil tycoon … at 14
ABU DHABI // The traders screamed "Buy!" and "Sell!" across the room as the tense minutes ticked away. By the end of just two hours, one triumphant company had turned its initial Dh18,000 sum into a whopping Dh637,000 profit.
Not bad for a day on the trading floor, even if the winning firm was taking part in a virtual oil trading game - and the company employees were all still at school.
Seven teams took part in the Carbon Trading Challenge at the all-male American International School in Abu Dhabi yesterday. The workshop, sponsored by the oil company BP, was part of an educational programme that teaches pupils maths, enterprise and commodities strategies.
One of the four Emirati pupils who won the challenge said the experience had been so thrilling he wanted to go into the industry.
"I would like to work in oil after this because it would be such an exciting job," said Saeed al Dhahiri, 14, the chairman of his group's company. "When the prices go down we have to buy and when they go up, we have to sell."
The team, nicknamed Adnoc after the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, won the trial game and the real event.
Mohammed al Nahyan, the company accountant, said winning twice felt "amazing". Hamdan al Zaabi, the market analyst, said he didn't know much about oil trading before the game but had learnt from his first experience.
Fadhel al Marar, Adnoc's manager, said that as Emiratis it was crucial for them to learn about the business of oil trading and that the game had been fun.
"It's really important for us to learn how to trade oil, especially living in Abu Dhabi," he said. "The UAE is our country and we must know these things."
The game required teams of four or five boys to act as virtual companies in a simulated oil trading environment. They had to analyse global market news and manage their budgets accordingly.
Each company member chose a role to act out from the accountant, the manager, the chair, the market analyst and the trader. Each team started with 100 barrels of oil and US$5,000. The group with the most money at the end of the two-hour workshop was the winner.
"The idea behind the trading challenge itself is that we're trying to bring maths and enterprise to life," said James Frecknall, one of the game's organisers.
"These subjects often get thought about as textbook but we were very keen to put it in a real-life context. The kids hear about the recession, the global economy, oil and trading, especially being in the Middle East, and the way it has an effect on the world."
The students learnt how to complete a trading request form, a financial report and read the trading rules and regulations. After every virtual market news update they had four minutes to trade their oil, submit their trading slips and explain the number of barrels sold and their reasons.
The teams, featuring nicknames such as Eco World Centre, Barclays and Stam, were also briefed on the value of determination, respect and excellence within trading and shown a video on the world of business.
The Palestinian student Adam Nabulsi, a trader at BBE, said he felt similar to his father, who trades shares for a living.
"I always follow what he does and I think when I'm older I might work in this field," he said.
Mr Frecknall and fellow organisers Scu Moncur and Gemma Price said the players were outstanding on the day and worked well with the ideas that were presented.
"You do see a definite interest in kids here compared to back in the United Kingdom because oil is present in Abu Dhabi and people here have a day-to-day contact with it," Mr Frecknall said.
His team, which works for the communications agency EdComs, has been in the programme for two years. They will visit five schools in the capital as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival.
However, not everyone was quite so taken with the exercise. Mohammed Anas, the accountant at Stam, said he would not consider oil trading as a career after finding the game too stressful.
"I didn't like having people shouting around me and feeling bankrupt," he said. "I think if I play this game in real life I will be bankrupt."