Last weekend, the largest collegiate Bitcoin and blockchain technology hackathon was hosted in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 50 outstanding developers and entrepreneurs competed in the second annual Bay BitHack, held at the Innovation Lab at the University of California, Berkeley on April 2-3. They were challenged to build applications of the future of the way we look at money.
The event was hosted through a partnership of the Bitcoin Association of Berkeley, the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, the Blockchain Education Network and Major League Hacking.
Andrew Tu, director of Bay Bithack, told Bitcoin Magazine that the mission of the event was “to educate students about Bitcoin and blockchain technology, foster cryptocurrency-related innovation in the Bay Area, and grow the local Bitcoin ecosystem.” The goal is in line with the three principles of the Bitcoin Association of Berkeley, headed by fellow Berkeley student Max Fang.
The event was similar to the one last year except that it changed location, from the Sutardja Dai Hall last year to the Berkeley-Haas Innovation Lab inside Memorial Stadium. This year the university's business school was also represented and there were additional funding, mentorship and support to projects that are built by Berkeley-Haas students.
The morning of the event began with workshops designed to help individuals and teams clarify their ideas and to teach important skills for blockchain technology development. Fang’s presentation focused on what Bitcoin and the blockchain were to clarify students’ understanding. Paul Puey, CEO of Airbitz, and Josh Cincinnati from BlockCypher presented and explained their companies’ API.
Hacking began on April 2 at 12:30 a.m. and continued all night, or as late as teams wished to continue, until the next day at 12:30 p.m. Team demonstrations and an awards ceremony followed.
Students designed a loyalty app for stores using Bitcoin, an insurance platform using shared consensus and the blockchain, an application for people to exchange loose change for bitcoins, among other projects. The winning team was two high school students who designed a betting and prediction platform for League of Legends using the blockchain.
Hacks were judged by a panel of experts, based on originality, functionality and a “wow factor” that makes the project stand out above and beyond. There were no requirements for teams, except that everyone who participated be a student.
"Schools hosting large Bitcoin events are a huge deal,” Dean Masley, executive director of the Blockchain Education Network, said in a statement to Bitcoin Magazine. “What most people don't realize is that blockchain is an incredibly nascent industry with talent being less than seven years experience at the very most. Annual events give local communities the infrastructure to build their local interest groups into influential hubs of this new industry. By dedicating resources to draw in talent, schools like Berkeley are leading the way for other schools to create blockchain institutions of their own to further this socio-economic experiment.”
Tu explained to Bitcoin Magazine that “having MLH as a partner helped establish Bay BitHack as a legitimate hackathon, because MLH is the official university hackathon league that sanctions just about every major hackathon event in North America.”
To be inclusive of everyone, the club chose to keep the event free and funded by corporate sponsors, all of which are technology startups in the Bitcoin and blockchain space. Coinbase, a Bitcoin wallet and exchange based in San Francisco, is the title sponsor of the event. Other sponsors include AirBitz, Purse, BlockCypher and BitMain.