In October 2014, when bitcoin wasn’t seen as legitimate, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched the MIT Bitcoin Project, the goal was to give away $500,000 worth of Bitcoin to undergrad students.
Dan Elitzer, the creator and president of the MIT Bitcoin Club, and Jeremy Rubin, a sophomore studying computer science, started the initiative. According to Bloomberg, the project was “aimed at creating an ecosystem for digital currencies at MIT.” The funding came from MIT alumni and the bitcoin community.
Rubin and Elitzer aspired to help MIT maintain its longstanding tradition as the preeminent educational institution at the vanguard of emerging technologies.
It wasn’t simply another marketing gimmick with bitcoin. Elitzer and Rubin planned various activities and intended to collaborate with professors and researchers to see how MIT students will utilize their bitcoins after they’ve opted in.
While it may appear to be a fun initiative, the team’s goal was to encourage academic and entrepreneurial activities on campus. MIT is a great place to start such a project since it has thousands of tech-savvy students and world-class lecturers and researchers.
The pair distributed the money to every MIT student, each undergrad received $100 in digital currency. Rubin and Elitzer sought Institutional Review Board permission to study students’ bitcoin behavior, conduct interviews, and document the process. Undergraduates were able to accept the money and still opt out of participating in studies. Rubin said
Giving students access to cryptocurrencies is analogous to providing them with internet access at the dawn of the Internet era.
The institution dispersed around $33.8 million worth of Bitcoin at current values, with 3,100 students taking advantage of the offer and close to $200,000 worth of Bitcoin leaving unclaimed at the time.
Many of the students presumably spent their freely obtained Bitcoin stash, with the MIT coop bookstore launching support for BTC as payment for textbooks, school supplies, and food.
Christian Catalini, an MIT associate professor who oversaw the study, stated “It’s unclear how many participants still own the bitcoin. One in ten cashed out in the first two weeks, and one in four had sold by the time the experiment ended.”
While many students spent their Bitcoin swiftly, MIT alumni Mary Spanjers still have the Bitcoin which she received seven years ago. One-third of a bitcoin is now worth almost $13,000, implying a 13,000 percent gain for those who hung on to the cryptocurrency.
“It dropped down from $100 to $50 pretty soon after the study started, and a lot of people freaked out and got pizza,” Spanjers said.
Despite the value of 0.3 Bitcoin falling from $19,500 in mid-April to nearly $11,000 today, MIT alumni Mary Spanjers describes her experience with cryptocurrency as “truly remarkable.”
After the experiment, the MIT campus became the first place globally with widespread access to the currency.
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