September 15, 2019 | 79° F

Rutgers bitcoin club welcomes students into the world of cryptocurrency

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RutgersBit gives students of all experience levels an introduction to the wildly popular cryptocurrency. The organization offers two seminars, one which covers the basics of cryptocurrency and another more advanced course for users interested in understanding the underlying technology. 

With Bitcoin's sudden economic and social impact of the highly valued cryptocurrency making national headlines, RutgersBit seeks to educate the Rutgers community about cryptocurrency and the underlying technology that makes it possible. 

Bitcoin is an online, decentralized currency, according to a report from CNET. Bitcoin has no physical form, so no central authority such as a bank or government is required to print paper cash or mint coins, meaning no one entity controls its value. 

It relies on technology known as “blockchain” to operate, according to the report. Instead of a central authority to oversee and manage the currency, the blockchain is essentially a digital ledger accessible to any Bitcoin user, that keeps an exact record of when and to whom Bitcoins are exchanged. This blockchain network is also key to the generation of new Bitcoins, a process known as “mining.”

According to CoinDesk, as of Monday, Jan. 15, Bitcoin which can be used across America at a variety of online and physical stores instead of dollars  is worth approximately $13,892.  

Chris Buren, founder and president of RutgersBit and a first-year student in the Rutgers Business School, said that the goal of the club is to teach all members of the Rutgers community about cryptocurrency and blockchain.

“There are no other organizations or full-fledged courses that focus solely on blockchain or cryptocurrency, so we formed RutgersBit to fill this gap,” Buren said.

Buren said that no experience is necessary to join the club and it has two seminars available to get new members started. One seminar covers the basics of cryptocurrency and blockchain, while the other is for more advanced users who want to understand the underlying technology. Both are taught by Sam Adhikari, a professor in the Department of Management who also serves as an advisor for the club.

Buren, and the club’s secretary Justin Yang, a first-year in the School of Arts and Sciences, both said that the club will help prepare Rutgers' students for a new world in which blockchain technology is an integral part of everyday life. 

“Cryptocurrency is just an example of what the emerging technology blockchain can do," Yang said. "Cryptocurrency and blockchain will be a central part of almost every industry in just a few years. By preparing Rutgers students with a background in this, it will give them an edge in the workforce and provide them with an advantage in their field.”

The club has many events planned for the upcoming year, and has already hosted Nick Spanos, the CEO of Blockchain Technology Corporation and founder of the New York City Bitcoin Center. 

Besides teaching Rutgers about how Bitcoin works, Yang and Buren said they also want to eliminate the negative stigma surrounding Bitcoin. 

Bitcoin’s secure, privacy-minded format has made it a tool in the illegal trade of drugs, weapons and other criminal endeavors, according to a report from VICE Magazine. As such, many Americans view Bitcoin as the shady offshoot of criminal empires, prospering thanks to the freedom and anonymity the internet gives them. 

“Rutgers University actually held a study which determined that the general public was either 'scared' of cryptocurrency and thought it was confusing and only used for illegal purposes, or they thought it was completely anonymous,” Yang said.

Buren explained that the potentially malicious use of Bitcoin does not represent the technology as a whole.

“The truth is that only a minuscule number of transactions are for illegal purchases, just like existing fiat currency and hard cash. A majority of cryptocurrencies are also not completely anonymous. You have a public key that shows up to everyone whenever you make a transaction. It’s not anonymous, it’s pseudo-anyonymous,” Buren said.

Sam Leibowitz-Lord

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