Science & Tech

New Class Explores Technical And Economic Foundations Of Bitcoin

Students in the unique class are having hands-on experiences with the cryptocurrency, including learning to code.
By Lesley Henton, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications January 20, 2023

A new course offered at Texas A&M University this semester is “The Bitcoin Protocol” in which students learn about the technical and economic foundation of the much-talked about cryptocurrency.

Dr. Korok Ray
Dr. Korok Ray

Mays Business School

The first of its kind at Texas A&M, the class is open to accounting and computer science students and is being taught by Mays Business School Associate Professor of Accounting and Founder of the Mays Innovation Research Center Dr. Korok Ray.

“Bitcoin is an interdisciplinary project, and I was pleased to see the Mays Business School and the College of Engineering adopt an interdisciplinary mindset in approving this class,” Ray said.

Why Focus On Bitcoin?

Although there are other blockchain classes offered at Texas A&M in computer science and computer engineering, Ray’s course is the first to focus specifically on Bitcoin.

The class will cover all aspects of Bitcoin, such as the underlying technology, the game theory, the macroeconomics, and the application of cryptography.

Ray – whose research interests are accounting, game theory and technology – said the class is primarily for undergraduates to provide hands-on experience with Bitcoin. “The students will learn to code portions of the Bitcoin protocol from scratch, which is in itself a great learning experience,” he said.

Benefits To Students

Learning about this “emerging economy” will open opportunities for students, Ray said.

“The Bitcoin economy is booming, especially in Texas,” he said. “This class can prepare students for the growing Bitcoin mining industry, much of it in Texas. On top of this, Austin is becoming a hub for Bitcoin developers.”

From an academic standpoint as well, much can be gained, Ray said. “First, Bitcoin is a novel way of storing and transferring value that has vast implications for finance and economics,” he said. “Bitcoin builds on decades of science and is itself a comprehensive learning tool across multiple disciplines. And Bitcoin is a zero-to-one, radical innovation that emerged outside of the traditional corridors of power and influence, and is therefore a deeply inspiring story of human achievement.”

Crypto Controversies

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have both proponents and doubters, as any sweep of social media or cable news channels will reveal. One thing everyone seems to agree on is the current state of affairs – a so-called “crypto winter,” meaning the market is performing poorly. The highly publicized FTX fiasco arguably added flame to the fire.

“The current crypto winter will prove the difference between a decentralized protocol like Bitcoin and a centralized company like FTX that is subject to fraud and abuse,” Ray predicts. “I am confident that Bitcoin will emerge out of these ashes, but don’t trust me on that – verify for yourself.”

Cross-discipline Collaboration

Ray said faculty in both Mays and Engineering are to be credited with the creation of the Bitcoin class, namely Scott Schaefer of the Department of Computer Science and Nate Sharp of the Department of Accounting.

“Leadership like this is vital to exposing students to the frontiers of new innovation, which happens precisely in between existing academic disciplines,” Ray said.

Media contact: Lesley Henton, lshenton@tamu.edu

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