BAF Sources Funds to Start UCLA’s First Accredited Blockchain Class
When funding for UCLA’s first accredited blockchain class fell through just a week before course registration, the Blockchain Acceleration Foundation successfully connected the school with an accelerator that donated the $15,000 necessary to fund the class.
“The course is a great step toward establishing a permanent blockchain program at UCLA, so when funding became jeopardized I knew I had to do what I can to implore the blockchain companies in my network to take action” said BAF co-founder and president Cameron Dennis.
One of those companies, MouseBelt Blockchain Accelerator, did take action, immediately responding to Cameron’s request by donating $15,000 to fund and launch the course. Cameron first met MouseBelt after he co-founded Blockchain at UCSB, where he experienced difficulties navigating bureaucratic and financial hurdles facing new student organizations. His positive experience working with MouseBelt and other blockchain businesses prompted him to found BAF, which directly connects university-affiliated student organizations with major blockchain players.
MouseBelt will assist professor John D. Villasenor and his teaching assistants, Andrew Battat and Jason Huan, in crafting the course syllabus. It will also provide guest lectures and workshops that introduce students to their open source blockchain tools.
“We hope this class will provide the hands-on development experience needed to help students pursue careers in the blockchain space and build their own projects,” said MouseBelt University Program Director Ashlie Meredith. “We also hope that decision-makers at UCLA and other universities will see the demand success of this course and continue to expand their offerings of accredited blockchain classes.”
MouseBelt’s university program, composed of over 60 student organizations, provides exclusive access to three courses on blockchain engineering, business, and student leadership, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other students and secure events and project funding.
“We hope by supporting and connecting these students, we can help them grow their clubs, organize high quality events, and engage in more cross-campus collaboration,” Meredith said. He added that MouseBelt plans to encourage blockchain innovation by mentoring students about starting their own companies and alloting $25,000 for the ten best projects they see in the coming term.
Prior to launching the course, which is listed as Engineering 188, UCLA only offered blockchain and cryptocurrency seminars through the Anderson School of Management. Founding BAF Organization Blockchain at UCLA also provides a 10-week education series for undergraduates and graduates looking for an introduction to blockchain. No for-credit blockchain programming course, however, was available for computer science and engineering students previously.
“The biggest hurdle facing blockchain adoption on college campuses today is the state of the technology,” said Battat, one of the course’s T.A.’s and co-founder of Blockchain at UCLA. “The state of blockchain today is often compared to the state of the Internet in the ‘80s and ‘90s—people in the tech world are excited about it, but the general public isn’t quite sure what it is, or what they can do with it. Like the Internet, this hurdle will be overcome through time.”
Engineering 188 will be offered as a 4-credit special topic, and is open to students of electrical and computer engineering as well as those pursuing various computer science degrees. Since opening up for registration, the course and its waitlist filled to capacity, according to Villasenor. Although still fluid and subject to change, class topics will likely include an overview of blockchain concepts, hash functions, public key cryptography, digital signatures, proof of work, proof of stake, the Solidity programming language, Ethereum, the Ethereum virtual machine, decentralized applications (Dapps), smart contracts, and tokens.
Organizers hope the course will help generate interest in blockchain not only on UCLA’s campus, but across the broader Southern California academic environment. Despite the hurdles facing blockchain adoption on many of these campuses, organizations like BAF remain committed to partnering with and working alongside student organizations passionate about the subject.
“Put simply, without BAF’s help, the blockchain class would not have happened,” Battat said. “We are extraordinarily grateful for their help putting Blockchain at UCLA in contact with MouseBelt.”
Unlike several other non-profits in the space, the Blockchain Acceleration Foundation (BAF) does not merely educate students interested in blockchain, but goes the next step by sourcing and connecting students with the resources necessary to organically grow the blockchain ecosystem on their campuses. Having worked with both new and established student blockchain organizations alike, BAF’s milestones include pionering a Blockchain and Law certificate at UC Santa Barbara’s Continuing Education department, monetarily compensating students to facilitate blockchain education, and connecting qualified students to internships and jobs at reputable blockchain companies. BAF is uniquely equipped to address the exact needs of each member organization, as its growing management team consists of the executives and co-founders of the blockchain clubs at USC, UCI, UCSB, UCSD, UNAM, and UCLA.