When HSBC surveyed consumers in May 2017 about recent advances in financial technologies, 59 percent had never heard of “blockchain.” Of the consumers that had, 80 percent couldn’t explain what it does.
Miami is not immune, and several students — sophomores Patrick Young and Jacob Salerno — were out to change that. They had an idea early last year that eventually became Miami University Blockchain Club, founded to increase awareness and interest in blockchain in the Miami Community.
Blockchain is a technology that keeps information about money or document exchanges. It independently verifies the identities and exchanges when transfers occur. The records are secured with strong cryptography, making blockchain an uncompromisable ledger of economic transactions. The security and independent verification also open the door for other business use cases.
Young and Salerno wanted to spread the word about this new technology and make it accessible to students at Miami.
In order to determine whether or not people would be interested in the club, Young and Salerno got in contact with some people who knew a bit about blockchain.
One of those people was John Zottola, a junior business student. Young introduced blockchain to to Zottola in the spring of their sophomore year, and it intrigued him.
“Over the summer, I was monitoring it, learning a little bit more about it, trying to figure out what exactly it does,” Zottola said.
They proposed the club to Jeffrey Merhout, an information systems and analytics professor, who volunteered to advise the club. Merhout is a faculty adviser to two other clubs, ISACA and Alpha Kappa Psi.
“I’m very interested in the topic of blockchain,” Merhout said. “We thought that someone from our department should be involved as an adviser because it just fits in naturally with information systems. I volunteered.”
When Young told Zottola in September that he was starting the organization, he joined right away. He was one of the initial twenty members of the club. Today, there are 115 members.
“Our initial purpose as an organization is to spread this understanding and help people conceptualize what blockchain is, how it’s playing role in our world and how it’s going to shape the world moving forward,” Young said.
MUBC hosts blockchain updates, group discussions, competitions and workshops to engage their members. One of the competitions includes a group of three to five members tracking a lesser-known cryptocurrency throughout the year and monitoring its performance.
They also try and connect their members with business executives so they have access to internships and possible careers in the future.
“The biggest thing I’m able to get out of it is that I’m always being informed on the way this technology is moving and the impacts it’s having in everyday business,” Zottola said.
Students interested in MUBC can contact an executive member, look at their website (mubc.io) or find them on the Hub.