[Updated] A College Non-Profit Handed Out Free Bitcoin to Chicago Students

Editor’s note: The article has been updated with insights from BEN executive director Dean Masley.

The Blockchain Education Network, a grassroots non-profit college collective of cryptocurrency enthusiasts and advocates distributed free bitcoin to students in multiple Chicago campuses this weekend.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that fundamentally goes against the ideals of centralization and the suits at the top of the financial food chain. Convenience and low to negligible fees are among its core offerings at a time when it is gaining awareness through increasing adoption around the world. Naturally, the cryptocurrency makes a good fit with college students.

The Blockchain Education Network (BEN), previously known as the College Cryptocurrency Network before its rebrand, is now a global collective and network of students that is spearheading the charge for cryptocurrency awareness. Organizing hackathons, events and talks are all of the norm for the non-profit.

On Saturday this past weekend, the group went around several college campuses in Chicago to showcase the potential and promise of bitcoin, by giving it away.

The collective travelled to four Chicago universities, namely Illinois Tech, the University of Chicago, DePaul and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Beyond distributing free bitcoin to those attending, BEN also helped first-time users set up their first bitcoin wallets.

Speaking to Hacked, Dean Masley, executive director of BEN revealed the Chicago bitcoin airdrop was the culmination of  a month-long airdrop event which was hosted at MIT, Berkeley, Georgia Tech, and schools in NYC, Florida, and Canada.

Reflecting on an “incredibly successful event,” Masley stated:

Our event was designed to ONLY give away bitcoin to students who might come out to future club events. Thus this is huge for getting the Chicago student blockchain scene started.

Furthermore, he gave an indication of the amount of bitcoin distributed by the network.

We have the tally on our website BlockchainEdu.org/airdrop. We got students to install a total of 231 wallets worth with 10k bits each (2.31 BTC). This doesn’t include the promotional giveaways where we gave larger amounts for winning raffles, trivia via the radio, etc.

Notably, the entire schedule of events was open to those beyond campus lines, making for a wider audience beyond college students.


Drawing parallels to other bitcoin giveaways, two MIT students raised $500,000 to start the MIT Bitcoin Project, which saw every undergraduate student to sign up receive bitcoin worth $100. The project went live in late 2014 and was predominantly a success, with over 3,100 students taking part over the course of the project. Two years later, 14% of students are still utilizing their original bitcoin allowance for shopping or trade.

In April 2015, another college cryptocurrency collective airdropped bitcoin to a college campus, taking MIT’s example. 4 bitcoins were raised (approx. $1,000 at the time, $2427 in today’s value) and were distributed to college students by the McGill Cryptocurrency Club, the official hub for cryptocurrency at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Paper envelopes with about $5 in bitcoin were distributed to a number of students.

Meanwhile, BEN is more than certain to organize more bitcoin airdrops in college campuses in the future, according to Masley.

Going forward, we will likely replicate this airdrop and the following Fall 2016 initiative every year so that students have a predictable meta-event to consistently grow their local influence.

Images from Shutterstock.

Samburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.