MIT to establish 'Bitcoin ecosystem' by giving away the cryptocurrency to every student

Each undergraduate will receive $100 in bitcoins to spend as they like

Justin Cash
Wednesday 30 April 2014 16:36 BST

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will be giving away $100 worth of Bitcoin to every undergraduate on campus this autumn in an attempt to turn the university into a leading cryptocurrency research centre.

Half a million dollars has been raised for the project, covering the distribution of Bitcoin to each of MIT's 4,528 undergraduate students. It is hoped that the giveaway will reinvigorate the controversial digital currency and establish an 'ecosystem' for Bitcoin at MIT.

It’s up to recipients to choose how to spend their Bitcoins, and researchers will be monitoring their effect on academic and entrepreneurial activities at the university.

“It isn't just about being able to buy things, it is about building new services and extending the core Bitcoin technology,” says Jeremy Rubin, a second year computer science student at MIT, who spearheaded the project along with Dan Elitzer, founder and President of the MIT Bitcoin Club. “We will likely have access to the public addresses of students’ [Bitcoin] wallets and will be able to analyse off of that data.”

Between now and the project launch, members of the MIT Bitcoin Club will help campus merchants get set up to accept Bitcoin.

Read more: What is Bitcoin? Our quick guide to understanding the virtual currency

“We want to issue a challenge to some of the brightest technical minds of a generation,” says Elitzer. “When you step onto campus this fall, all of your classmates are going to have access to Bitcoin; What are you going to build to give them interesting ways to use it?”.

The project has around 25 donors and is funded mainly through MIT alumni, in conjunction with members of the Bitcoin community.

Around half of the cash will come courtesy of Alexander Morcos, the former managing director of New York based high-frequency trading firm Hudson River Trading.

“Alex is passionate about Bitcoin and passionate about giving back to MIT,” says Rubin. “This project sits at the intersection of that”.

Originally, Rubin’s idea was to distribute Bitcoin only to students on the prestigious ‘Course 6’ at MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department, but Elitzer was the one who had the idea of doing something the whole university could participate in.

In an email to MIT student paper the Tech, an MIT spokesman said that “[t]he administration wishes the project’s leaders and participants all success.”

Bitcoin is a digital currency which facilitates payments in units called Bitcoins – currently valued at around $440 each – over a peer to peer network.

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