A couple of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students have managed to raise $500,000 in bitcoin for a curious cryptocurrency project.
The pair intend to distribute the money to every single MIT student this fall: each undergrad will receive $100 in the digital currency.
The project was launched by Dan Elitzer, the founder and president of the MIT Bitcoin Club, and Jeremy Rubin, a sophomore studying computer science. Their goal is simple – to create an ecosystem for digital currencies at MIT.
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It's not just another bitcoin-related publicity stunt. Elitzer and Rubin have already prepared a range of activities and they plan to work with professors and researchers in an effort to study how MIT students will use their bitcoins once they 'opt in'.
While it sounds like a fun project, the team have serious aims to spur academic and entrepreneurial activity at the campus. With its thousands of tech-savvy students, backed by world-class teachers and researchers, MIT is a prime location to launch such a project.
Rubin and Elitzer say they want to help MIT continue its long tradition as the preeminent educational institution at the forefront of emerging technologies.
The funding is coming from MIT alumni and the bitcoin community. The team has already raised more than $500,000, which is enough to cover the cost of the project and the distribution of $100 in bitcoin to all 4,528 enrolled at the institution.
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The team hopes to distribute the bitcoins this fall, making the MIT campus the first place in the world with widespread access to the currency.
As far as the general public goes, bitcoin adoption remains very limited. However, the college campus could soon see an influx of students eager to spend their free bitcoins. Rubin added:
"Giving students access to cryptocurrencies is analogous to providing them with internet access at the dawn of the Internet era."
The organizers admit they still don't know how students will use their bitcoin, but that's largely the point. The programme offers a unique opportunity to study behaviour, spending habits, identify potential problems and alternative uses for bitcoin – no strings attached.
Best of all, we are talking about MIT students, who know a thing or two about tech and innovation.