Club explores, educates on blockchain technology's potential beyond Bitcoin

July 2018

Jay Murdock

If Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are the first thing you think of when someone says “blockchain,” Patrick Young says you might want to look a little deeper.

“It’s the next wave of the Internet,” Young explained. “People are getting too focused on bitcoin and missing the point of the underlying technology and the advantages that blockchain is poised to provide us in the future.”

The junior marketing major said he helped start the Miami University Blockchain Club in August 2017 to “provide an educational outlet for students who are interested in this topic.” Young believes that blockchain could revolutionize a wide array of business and social practices, such as supply chain management. “What we have in our current systems is essentially information silos, different ledgers between every business process. There might be a shared ledger between an original manufacturer and shipping, then the retailer. But having a different ledger between each process of the business, there’s a lot of implied issues with that system,” he remarked. “Whereas with a distributed ledger, you essentially combine the existing ledgers into a single shared database available to all participating parties.”

The club’s leaders believe that blockchain’s inherent transparency gives it a significant advantage over legacy documentation systems.“With the distributed technology, you can find where any of the information came from, like a timeline,” junior architecture major/entrepreneurship minor Jake Salerno explained. “You can track many different goods into one entity. There are so many different attributes that have to be accounted for on their own behalf, and then reported to whoever is in charge as to where they are.”

And much like blockchain itself, the club has grown rapidly. “It’s been a pretty wild ride. Got started with about 20 members, but last time I checked, we had 194.” Young noted.

“The growth of our club has been driven by numerous factors, namely our enthusiastic members. Miami attracts many bright, driven students that truly make our members our greatest asset. On the other hand, blockchain technology has continued to make great strides, drawing attention on a global scale,” finance major William Becker said. “When you couple an exciting new technology with an incredible member base, it is no surprise that MUBC has taken off in the way that it has.”

“With it being such a new technology, we wanted to share the knowledge that we have already,” Salerno remarked. “We wanted to give students the right place to collaborate with each other, bring all these different minds together into one conversation.”

“As we started to grow, it became a lot more difficult to have, essentially, a curriculum where we would build on the previous meetings,” Young said. “In the future, we hope to offer consultation services, to be able to develop proof-of-concepts and advise businesses on where and how blockchain could be beneficial to their business.”

Working with Information Systems & Analytics Assistant Professor Dr. Arthur Carvalho, the club has worked to get a blockchain course added to the Farmer School curriculum for Spring 2019. “We grew to such a size because we had people excited about the technology, and now we can channel them into the university and take a more structured approach to learning about blockchain,” Young pointed out.

“It’s such a new technology that has the potential to impact industry, applicable to the back door and front door of the way that we engage,” Salerno said. “With our generation being the newest to go into the workforce, what better time to learn than in college?”

Blockchain Club meeting in spring 2018