College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Cryptocurrency-funded STEM education

(L-R): August Domanchuck, Dash representative and Jacob Hemmerich

Two Iowa State University students went on a cryptocurrency-funded adventure overseas to inspire their dream project.

August Domanchuk and Xander Apponi, computer engineering freshmen with the Department of  Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE) at Iowa State, and technical communications freshman Jacob Hemmerich recently created a cryptocurrency-funded project with the goal of developing student-led communities in STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Friends Domanchuk and Hemmerich successfully crowdfunded their trip to the first ever Dash Conference in London on Sept. 24, 2017.

Dash, short for “digital cash,” is an open source peer-to-peer cryptocurrency, similar to Bitcoin, but with a focus on developing a smooth, easy-to-use experience for everyday transactions by non-technical users, similar to a PayPal-like system.

“We created a proposal for our STEM program and started to get some feedback on it,” Domanchuk said. “Then we thought, what better way to get more feedback than to actually go to one of the conferences that this community was going to hold?”

As college students with a limited budget and looking at last-minute international flights, they turned to the Dash community to help crowdfund their trip through cryptocurrency donations. If they fell short of that goal, the pair promised to donate their proceeds to a computer science charity.

“The difference between what we did and creating a GoFundMe was we could instantly use that money, without waiting for a bank transfer or paying any taxes or royalties on the donations,” Domanchuk said. “We were able to purchase our plane tickets in cryptocurrency, our transportation in London, our hotel, all in cryptocurrency.”

Domanchuk and Hemmerich created a YouTube video explaining their goal and why they wanted to go to London, with their Dash and Bitcoin web address in the bio below the video. Within 12 hours, they received $8,000 from anonymous donors.

(L-R): Jacob Hemmerich, August Domanchuk and Dash CEO Ryan Taylor

“When we were in London, we actually had the chance to interview Ryan Taylor, the CEO of Dash Core,” Domanchuk said. “We explained our idea to him, and he was all on board with what we want to do in our program.”

After returning from London, the duo had more motivation, insight and feedback to get their project off the ground and into the lives of students.

The Dash Community has a monthly budget, and they decide every month what they want to use that money on,” Domanchuk said. “They allow anyone to submit a proposal to the community, and then they vote on it.”

The trio has started Bit to Byte, a program supported by the Dash Community, with the goal of providing learning resources for financially challenged and underrepresented youth.

“We wanted to create a program to provide hands-on learning experiences for elementary students,” Domanchuk said. “With the mentorship program, high school students can be paid in cryptocurrency to teach and mentor the elementary students in STEM fields.”

The Dash Community supports and funds Bit to Byte in an educational partnership to encourage STEM literacy in communities across the globe. Bit to Byte exposes students to artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other emerging technologies.

“Currently, we are creating the framework for this project and the requirements for our research and project grants, as well as the curriculum for our mentorship program,” Domanchuk said. “We hope our program will get more kids and students interested in STEM.”