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Oxford Virtual Academy Offers Lego Mindstorms Course to Homeschool Students

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The Oxford Virtual Academy (OVA) is offering a LEGO Mindstorms NXT class to homeschool students at Kettering University. Enrollment for current students is through December 31, and open enrollment for all students is January 5-16.

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Last semester was the first time the LEGO NXT course was offered. Students learned about using sensors to program robots. No previous programming knowledge is necessary for the introductory course.

Next semester, students who took the introductory course will be able to move up to a more advanced level that will get deeper into sensors and basic programming, navigating the file systems of the robots and using sensors to move them.

Robots Built with Programmable “Intelligent Bricks”

EV3 robotAn early hands-on introduction to robotics seems important to prepare the young to cope with a world where advanced automation plays an ever more prominent role, and industrial robots disrupt traditional manufacturing. The LEGO Mindstorms system permits learning while playing and is often considered as a toy, but expert users can build very sophisticated systems and do leading edge research work. Recently, scientists mapped the connections between the 302 neurons of a worm’s brain, simulated them in software, and uploaded the software to a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot that exhibits worm-like behavior.

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Also read: A Lego Mindstorms Body Powered by a Worm’s Mind

LEGO Mindstorms NXT is a programmable robotics kit first released by LEGO in late July 2006. It replaced the first-generation LEGO Mindstorms kit, which was called the Robotics Invention System. The main component in the kit is a brick-shaped computer called the NXT Intelligent Brick, which can take input from up to four sensors and control up to three motors. A NXT Educational Version, from Lego Education, is made for school use.

The third generation Mindstorms platform, called EV3, is a further development of the NXT. The software that ships with the EV3 set can be used to program the NXT.

The Oxford Virtual Academy is an online school that offers a different style of education from that provided by most public school systems. Begun in 2007, online education from the Oxford school system has to date changed the lives of thousands of students in southeastern Michigan.

Images from CHEN WS and Shutterstock.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Ethereum: Buy Ether Now Or Wait?

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When is it a good time to buy and sell a particular Cryptocurrency? That is the million-dollar question. Surely, the person who could know the answer would be a multi billionaire by now. There are, however, certain trends and signs one can look out for that may give a good indication of whether or not it is a good time to buy or sell a specific Cryptocurrency. We use Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum as example.

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What is Ethereum?

Ethereum is a very important crypto in the sense that competition is always good for business. Ethereum was introduced in 2013 by a crypto researcher and developer Vitalik Buterin. It is currently the second most popular Cryptocurrency, following Bitcoin and is said to be the next Bitcoin. Ethereum differs from Bitcoin in the sense that it introduced smart contracts to the industry. It has relatively the same qualities as Bitcoin – it is open-source and built on Blockchain, which defines its abilities and characteristics. Enabled by Ethereum, a smart contract is a computer algorithm that allows users to build or develop innovative tools and systems to perform various tasks. These smart contracts run on Blockchain and eliminate the need for third parties. It can save one a lot of time and money.

The market is very much split in two as the majority of investors put their money in both Bitcoin and Ethereum. Ethereum’s token that you can trade with on exchanges is called an “ether” and can be bought or sold not only for Bitcoin, but also for any popular fiat currency like USD or EUR. Some cryptocurrency exchanges even offer an option of converting ETH to GBP, which can now bring you around £340 per coin.

Ethereum was forked in 2016, and Ethereum Classic (ETC) was introduced to the market. There are currently talks of another fork for Ethereum Classic that is expected to happen sometime in December 2017.

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The latest on Ethereum

In order to determine whether or not it is a good time to invest in a Cryptocurrency, one should keep an eye on the news. News greatly affects whether a coin’s price will spike or take a hike. Remember – buy the rumor, sell the news.

According to CryptoCoins News, Mike Novogratz, an investor, predicts that the price of Ether could skyrocket till the end of 2017. Currently, the price of Ether in USD is $437. This follows the Ethereum Foundation introducing new scaling solutions like Plasma and Casper. Ethereum can now allow for more transactions than the Bitcoin network. Bitcoin is a bit slow at the moment. Ethereum is said to have had an upgrade recently, and it will do away with unnecessary information “clogging” the system. It will also allow Ethereum’s blockchain to perform even faster while the productivity will increase to 550,000 transactions per day.

If you want to stay on top of Ethereum and watch your investment grow, monitor market changes through sector-specific announcements, news sites, charts, etc.

Should I buy Ethereum now or wait?

Various crypto analysts and experts give their opinion regarding the question at hand.

Novogratz was quoted in Fortune in May 2017 that he would consider buying more Ethereum if the price drops to $150 or $200. This means Ethereum would have a market cap of more or less than $20 billion. Novogratz told the news site that he believes the crypto market “has much further to run.”

On another note, when a particular coin’s price spikes, a lot of people want to jump in and buy immediately. This is not the right thing to do. Buy low, sell high, and repeat. Normally, when a coin has spiked, the market will take back 60%. By making use of some analytical tools, you can determine where this point will be. This is generally a good entry point. Despite of these and other trading tools, there is no guarantee in this industry. Majority of the time it is better to invest in a coin for a long term rather than for a short term.

One can also opt for dollar-cost averaging. It is a clever investment strategy when one buys a particular coin every month on a specific date. You may buy $100 Ethereum every 15th of a month and, over the long run, you will see your investment grow. The truth is that no one can really predict what the market will do, and sometimes it is better to buy now. It may happen that the price will never go down again.

The one thing that is great about cryptos is that you can buy a part of an Ethereum. For example, you can have a fifth of a Bitcoin or Ethereum, and if you do some day trading, you can easily grow this into one or even two coins.

It is really up to you if you want to buy Ethereum today or wait for the price to get lower. Before you invest, ask yourself this question: How much are you ready to lose?

Ethereum price predictions for 2018

According to Coin Spectator, an automated news aggregation service, Ethereum could reach $1,000. This is due to its increasing popularity and innovative technology. It is interesting to see that Ethereum spiked with more than 3,995% during 2017 whilst Bitcoin increased by more than 377%.

According to the website Investing Haven, it agrees with the $1,000 price prediction, adding that if it does not reach this price in 2018, it will surely do so by 2020. The website gives the following three factors as the reason for this prediction:

  • Considering the future supply of Ether, developers may want to ensure that the number of coins remains constant. It may increase now but will stabilize after a while.
  • The increasing demand and use of Ethereum’s smart contracts. The need for decentralized systems is growing on a daily basis. Investing Haven predicts that 5 – 7 years from now there will be a 20 – 30-fold increase in the smart contract apps being used.
  • If the price of Ether continues growing in the same way it is now, it will attract more investors.

Where do I buy Ethereum?

There are hundreds of exchanges where you can buy Ethereum. Here is a list of reputable exchanges for you to consider. Be sure to pick the one that perfectly suits your particular needs and offers a reliable and transparent service.

In conclusion, some are saying that there is a strong possibility that Ether could eventually be worth more than Bitcoin. Investors are constantly looking out for the next best investment – maybe this is one of those?

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

 

 

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Understanding Cryptocurrency Price Factors

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By now everyone is well aware of the incredible run that the cryptocurrency market has had this year, with bitcoin recently smashing past the $10,000 mark. Despite this however, the price journey of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin is not simply just a vertical path upwards. The price of bitcoin experienced both major lows and highs, which were caused by a variety of factors. This article will take an in-depth look at how these factors can affect the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies alike.

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It is first important to make a clear distinction between the price and value of a cryptocurrency. The price of any cryptocurrency is simply the monetary cost of purchasing it, whereas the value of a cryptocurrency is its perceived benefits and usefulness. The price of a cryptocurrency is not tied to its value but instead, its perceived value. It is from this perception of value that many of the factors determining the price of a cryptocurrency usually operates.

Supply & Demand

Starting from the basics, the supply and demand of any cryptocurrency will undoubtedly influence its price. A cryptocurrency that has a lot of supply, but little demand will see very little price movement. Whereas, a cryptocurrency with a limited supply, but is very sought after will see significant price movement upwards. To some extent, this particular factor is the driving force of bitcoin’s upward trajectory. The circulating supply of bitcoin is approximately 16.7 million,this is relatively low compared to the sheer amount of bitcoin that buyers are demanding. Because of the higher levels of demand relative to its supply, the price of bitcoin increases to reflect this relationship.

Utility

Ultimately, many people will buy and sell a cryptocurrency based on its utility. In this context, utility simply means the usefulness of something. In general, the more useful a cryptocurrency is in solving a problem, the more likely that it will be bought, because a cryptocurrency that is seen as useful will also be perceived as being valuable. Take Ethereum for example, Ethereum is an open platform technology that allows developers to build and launch their very own decentralized applications (dapps).

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Many people see the Ethereum project as being useful, because the project has produced some very interesting dapps that try and solve certain problems, such as TenX with cryptocurrency spending, or EtherTweet with a censorship resistant social media platform. This in turn presents Ethereum as being a much more valuable project, because not only does Ethereum make these dapps possible, but these dapps will require the purchasing of ETH (Ethereum’s cryptocurrency) to build them in the first place, causing an upward pressure in its price.

Utility is one of the most important factors to look for when deciding to invest in a cryptocurrency. If a cryptocurrency solves an issue i.e. it is extremely useful, but that is not reflected in its price, then that cryptocurrency is undervalued. This is a good indicator that, regardless of its undervalued price now, once the market begins to realize just how important the coin is, then it is likely that the cryptocurrency will see an eventual increase in its price.

Market Sentiment

Positive or negative market news can also be a deciding factor as to if a coin’s price moves up or down. The reason for this is that, depending on the market news, sentiment as to the perceived value of a coin can change. A good illustration of this point is Mt. Gox. For those that do not know, Mt. Gox was a bitcoin exchange that was based in Japan. Mt. Gox played an integral part of the bitcoin ecosystem, handling around 70% of all bitcoin transactions worldwide. However, following a security breach that resulted in about 850,000 bitcoins either being lost or stolen, Mt. Gox suspended trading and went into liquidation. During the tumultuous period face by Mt. Gox, bitcoin prices fell by 36%, reflecting negative market sentiment surrounding bitcoin at that time. In sum, the perceived value of bitcoin was negatively impacted as a direct result of the Mt. Gox incident.

Despite the sell-off that occurred during and following the aftermath of Mt. Gox, bitcoin was obviously able to recover. This scenario demonstrates the power of the utility factor. Despite the sell-off that bitcoin experienced, bitcoin’s utility remained the same. bitcoin still solved an important problem, it was a borderless payment system that could facilitate instantaneous transactions worldwide, at a very low cost. The market again gradually realized the usefulness of this, and subsequently bought back into bitcoin. The utility of a cryptocurrency has one of the most important long-term impacts on the price of a cryptocurrency. It will only be the cryptocurrencies that solve an important problem well that will remain competitive in the marketplace.

Mining Difficulty

For proof-of-work (PoW) blockchains such as bitcoin, the mining difficulty of a coin can have an effect on its price. In brief, mining difficulty is simply the measure of how difficult it is to find a hash value below a given target hash. A thorough explanation of proof-of-work and mining difficulty can be found here. Initially, a low mining difficulty indicates that a cryptocurrency is easy to mine, which means that it is easier to increase the supply of that cryptocurrency, which would place a down pressure on its price. However, increased mining difficulty means that it is harder to increase the supply of the cryptocurrency, which, when compared to rising demand, may cause an upward movement in the price of the cryptocurrency. This factor requires that you have technical knowledge of the cryptocurrency that you may choose to invest in, as it may play a vital role in its price movements in the future.  

In conclusion, these are just some of the core factors that can influence a cryptocurrency’s price movement. What is important to take away from this article, is that price movements are, to a considerable extent, tied to the perceived value of the coin in the marketplace. Any event that may occur, either good or bad, will affect the perceived value of a cryptocurrency, which will subsequently affect its price. This is an important principle that the cryptocurrency market largely currently operates on.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Four Reasons Why ICO Funding Is Slowing

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Initial coin offerings (ICOs) have quickly emerged as a multi-billion-dollar industry, but concerns over regulation are compelling many startups to think twice before issuing their crowdsale. These regulatory hurdles, combined with greater investor scrutiny over prospective raises, suggest that the ICO market is about to shift into lower gear.

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ICOs by the Numbers

Depending on who you ask, ICO funding was on track for a record-setting month in November. According to data collected by Argon Group, nearly $500 million was raised in the first half of the month. That’s equivalent to roughly 75% of the September total, when startups raised $663 million. This translates into 25 times the funding seen just one year ago.

However, the latest CoinSchedule data suggest that only a fraction of that total was actually raised last month.

Crowdsales have generated more than $3.5 billion in funding this year alone, easily outstripping early-stage venture capital. ICO projects touch virtually every industry, with infrastructure and trading tend to be the most common.

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Five Reasons ICO Funding Is About to Cool

Launching an ICO has become the gold standard for startups wanting to raise capital as quickly as possible, but there’s evidence to suggest that the early-stage euphoria is beginning to wind down. This doesn’t mean coin offerings are dying. Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. As the industry evolves, the quality of the crowdraises is expected to improve. Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum, says ‘Tokens 2.0‘ will provide much more noteworthy ICOs that are of significantly higher quality.

Regulation

The immediate cause of the sudden slowdown in ICO funding is tied to China’s ban on token sales. The all-out ban occurred in early September, and eventually led to a sharp slowdown in the amounts raised during the month of October. The ICO ban quickly spread to South Korea, a nation with otherwise very lax cryptocurrency laws.

ICOs continue to operate in regulatory purgatory, which means startups are thinking long and hard about what type of token to issue and where to implement their crowdraise. In the meantime, the European Union (EU) appears to offer the best opportunity for a headache-free crowd sale. The region accounts for nearly half of total ICO funding, according to a recent report.

New Protocols

Murky regulations have compelled the blockchain community to take matters into its own hands. This has led to the development of the Simple Agreement for Future Tokens (SAFT) project, which is intended to create a self-regulated industry capable of navigating U.S. securities laws.

SAFTs are gaining traction among ICO issuers, but may not be as safe as previously envisioned. A compelling report from the Cardozo Blockchain Project recently argued that SAFTs “could heighten the exuberance manifesting in markets for blockchain-based tokens and make it even more difficult to provide consumers access to potentially impactful new technology.”

If SAFT is the way to go, it may be a while before the industry adopts it as the standard protocol.

Investor Scrutiny

Gone are the days where an ICO can raise $20 million on the back of a whitepaper. Investors are much more cautious today than they were just a few months ago. In addition to concept, the public wants to see solid use cases and a viable business model underlying the crowdraise. They want more information about the team, and expect to have all their questions answered promptly.

Investors are still pouring money into crowdfunding campaigns, but with hundreds of projects launched weekly, the standard for token raises is higher than it was before.

Rise of Scams

One of the reasons why investors are scrutinizing ICOs so closely is the growing prevalence of fraudulent projects. It’s not uncommon for a scammer to copy an ICO, re-write the whitepaper and launch a website with pictures of advisers they found online.

Then there’s the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charging two ICOs with fraud. The regulator has warned investors to be weary of false promises of sizable returns from token sales.

The Future

As we mentioned earlier, a slowdown in the ICO space could be a very good thing for an industry experiencing exponential growth. A more conscientious token sale market may also help shake off the blockchain community’s speculative image. But regardless of where ICOs end up, blockchain technology is here to stay. It utility has proven far too valuable to ignore, even though many do not care for the cryptocurrencies it helped create.

The cryptocurrency market is worth more than $320 billion. Sixteen digital currencies are valued at $1 billion or more, with nine others worth at least $500 million.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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