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U Wyoming Spurs Blockchain Development with Hackathon 'Stampede'

blockchain development

For the second year, the University of Wyoming has hosted a multi-challenge hackathon focused on blockchain. The "Blockchain Stampede," part of the university's College of Engineering and Applied Science WyoHackathon, is intended to help highlight the state's commitment to blockchain technology.

During the 2018-2019 legislative session, the state passed 13 separate blockchain bills, covering property rights, banking services, authorized custodians for digital assets and setup of "sandboxes" for financial innovators. Shortly after, state officials reported that 200 new companies had registered in Wyoming with names indicating their involvement in blockchain technology. Various blockchain courses have been introduced at the university, and its money-raising foundation is among the first to accept donations in bitcoin.

At the end of last year, a blockchain developed at the university was used to track the first shipment of beef that was proven to be free range and "fairly farmed." That trial shipment, demonstrated by BeefChain, a Wyoming-based company, was a joint effort of U Wyoming's Department of Computer Science and the colleges of Agriculture and Business. The beef was raised at Murraymere Farms in Powell, WY, then placed in tagged cases with RFID labels and shipped to a "five-star dining establishment" in Taipei, Taiwan. The labels included a digital identifier that enabled the cases of beef to be tracked along the complete supply chain, from plant processing, export, import and into the kitchen at the restaurant.

The latest blockchain event brought together tech companies, blockchain developers and lawmakers to the campus for meetings, planning sessions and coding competitions. The WyoHackathon competition included 13 challenges, which promised $184,000 in prizes. As an example, one challenge offered $15,000 to the best solutions for promoting interoperability "between exchanges, blockchains, wallets, cryptocurrencies, infrastructure and traditional fiat financial systems." A $30,000 challenge wooed developers to come up with a "simple and interactive game" to explain "Green," a blockchain technology that helps people pay for their power. And a third, sponsored by Sandcastle Foundation, was a regional qualifier that would allow the winners to head to Dubai in 2020 for a World's Fair event.

According to local reporting, the institution's Board of Trustees has asked the state to provide $2 million to support "the university's fledgling blockchain programs." That funding would cover the hiring of four blockchain professors: two in computer science, a third in finance and a fourth in agricultural economics.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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