New Bitcoin student club at MIT will promote the virtual currency

All undergraduates will be offered $100 in bitcoins

Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology want to give Bitcoin a boost.

Two students at the prestigious university announced Tuesday the creation of the MIT Bitcoin Club, which will distribute US$100 in bitcoins to all of the school's 4,500-plus undergraduates who opt in to the program.

The project is aimed at creating a hyper-concentrated community of backers around the technology, which could support the development of new software and services built on top of bitcoin's infrastructure.

It could also be thought of as equal parts a mini bitcoin economy and techy social experiment.

"Bitcoin is a very important technology," said Jeremy Rubin, a sophomore studying computer science at MIT and the project's co-founder. "MIT is not super focused on it right now, but we should be innovating in this space."

Plans for the project involve a range of activities, including working with other professors and researchers to study how students use the bitcoins, as well as possible entrepreneurial activity at the school, the project's founders said in their announcement.

Their hope is to establish MIT as a global hub where Bitcoin-related research, ideas and ventures can be studied, discussed and developed.

The project has $500,000 in funding, the bulk of which comes from MIT alumni, with additional support from the bitcoin community. The funding will cover the distribution of the bitcoins to undergraduates, as well as infrastructure and informational activities. Rubin said they were still working out which exchange would be used to distribute the bitcoins.

At current exchange rates of roughly $444, $100 is equivalent to less than one-quarter of a bitcoin. Bitcoin also faces an uncertain future, given the risks of cyber theft and the increased oversight from government regulators.

By the time the fall semester comes around, the state of the industry could be vastly different from today.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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