University of Wisconsin-Madison welcomed a new student organization to campus this fall. Badger Blockchain, founded this past August, aims to “engage and evangelize the UW-Madison student community into Blockchain technology.”
Blockchain is a shared, unchangeable ledger that fosters the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. Valuable information can be tracked and traded through blockchain networks regarding orders, payments, accounts, production and much, much more.
“Our real focus in the first semester was basically educating people on what the fundamentals of blockchain are,” said Badger Blockchain President Hunter Goff in an interview with The Daily Cardinal. “So that entails how blockchain works, how does it function, what are use cases, what are applications for it in the ecosystem.”
One of Badger Blockchain’s fundamental ways to educate students is by hosting guest speakers who work with blockchain as a profession. UW-Madison alumni Christian Kaczmarczyk, who works with a venture firm focused primarily on FinTech, PropTech and crypto, was the first to speak with the organization.
“All of us are still in contact with him and reach out to him for guidance,” Badger Blockchain Executive Advisor Jacob Dudley said to the Cardinal. “He has been a super great resource for us, especially as an alumnus, because eventually, the goal is to build out an alumni network so that we can have more strength and presence in the ecosystem.”
Badger Blockchain is making further strides to educate and network UW-Madison students. They have booked a speaker for nearly every week of the semester starting in March from organizations and networks including Starkware, Chainlink and FTX.
“We’re moving more towards application-based learning and project learning because we feel that by getting our members more involved in different projects, they’ll learn even more rather than hearing us talk about how it all works and what crypto is,” Goff said. “This semester if we're focused on a couple of different projects — technical projects like coding smart contracts, research-oriented projects, digging into some of these protocols (and) understanding themes of crypto and blockchain.”
Mixing application-based learning and project learning with speakers from the industry offers unique learning opportunities in a new and emerging field, according to Goff.
“I think the driving ethos of the club is learning by doing. (We) want to have these speaker events so that we can pique people’s interests in the space and have them think about something they wouldn’t have previously thought about,” Goff stated. “Then they go out and actually do it — apply a project with other club members so that we’re holding each other accountable. We’re actually doing things that we can talk about later down the line.”
Advances in blockchain technology occur rapidly which makes learning blockchain difficult, especially for students who have never worked with blockchain before. Badger Blockchain aims to help all students — even newbies — with this exact problem.
“We still have the entire curriculum that we built out from our first semester, so we are willing to send that to each of our members who want to help them learn best,” said Badger Blockchain Executive Advisor Mitchel Schneider. “We have these meet up plans called White Paper Wednesdays where we go over a particular white paper from protocol.”
White paper is a detailed proposal that explains new blockchain projects. Members of Badger Blockchain gather on White Paper Wednesdays, an informal discussion where people can answer questions and talk about the protocol, Schneider said.
There are approximately 60 to 70 Badger Blockchain members and nearly 40 active students going to events, said Goff. The growing interest in the club has resulted in the creation of a UW-Madison blockchain course.
“After seeing the interest generated by the club, there is actually going to be a class on blockchains and cryptocurrencies taught by our advisor Brad Chandler next semester,” Dudley said. “There will be an opportunity to formally earn credits for students to learn in a way that they can also further their education at UW-Madison. This is super exciting and honestly was one of the goals of the club.”