Underserved students from the city of Rochester with a strong interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology recently participated in an immersive, weeklong course at RIT to learn the latest about digital currency.
A mystery to many people, cryptocurrency is a type of currency that’s stored exclusively in a digital format—not issued or maintained by a central authority like a government or bank. It’s “issued with cryptography, distributed consensus mechanisms, and economic incentive alignment,” according to Jonathan S. Weissman, a senior lecturer in computing security in RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Services and teacher of the class.
“Digital currency is interesting to me because it’s fun learning about how it was created and all aspects related to it,” said Teresa Spivey, a Rochester, N.Y., resident who participated in Weissman’s class inside Eastman Hall. “My future plans are to learn everything I can and really find my passion for what I want to do forever. I will figure that out by learning and experiencing other classes and opportunities like this one.”
That’s exactly the mission of RIT Certified, which launched in June and aims to provide a wide range of alternative education courses, certificate programs, and skill-based learning experiences targeting people beginning their careers, changing roles, maintaining their existing job, or advancing in the workplace. RIT Certified offered the class collaboratively with Foundry, a Rochester, N.Y.-headquartered and wholly-owned subsidiary of Digital Currency Group (DCG) focused on digital asset mining and staking.
The class was the outcome of discussions between RIT Certified, Foundry, and University Advancement on how they might partner in supporting alternative pathways to training in the space of cryptocurrency and mining. The Foundry Scholars program resulted in a gift by the company to support seven underserved students this summer and 13 more next year to experience weeklong, industry-focused classes focused on the field of cryptocurrency and blockchain.
Both Foundry and RIT Certified are actively invested in career and technical education, not only for K-12 students, but for traditionally underserved populations—for whom the scholarships are targeted.
“We believe that employer-driven educational experiences for high school students will only improve their ability to be successful,” said Dennis Di Lorenzo, chief business officer for RIT Certified. “A program like this brings students from communities with limited opportunities to a college campus, provides them with a college experience, and industry exposure. It’s about changing their perspective on the future of work.”
Foundry Academy Executive Director Craig Ross ’06 (telecommunications engineering technology) said the class fit “Foundry CEO Mike Colyer’s vision of Western New York becoming the center for innovation in blockchain technology.” Ross heads up the company’s new initiative to train and develop top technicians for the fast-growing bitcoin mining industry.
“Considering RIT’s reputation of academic excellence and prominence in Western New York, Foundry and RIT are a natural partnership,” Ross said. “The goal of this course was to provide an overview of bitcoin mining and cryptocurrencies to historically marginalized groups in Rochester, ultimately working to break down barriers to employment in the industry.”
“We believe that the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency industry is a hotbed for innovation, just like the Internet and mobile revolutions,” he added. “It is Foundry’s goal to ensure that all interested members of our community—no matter their socioeconomic status—can capitalize on this exciting technology and be contributing members of the blockchain revolution.”
Weissman said his course’s objectives included “students walking away with a granular understanding of cryptocurrencies and blockchains and the ability to reason about newfangled technologies.”
“I wanted to provide them the familiarity with trends and notable projects in the field and industry,” he noted, “along with the confidence to pursue opportunities for participation and contribution in the future.”
During the weeklong class, Weissman asked his students questions such as what problems do cryptocurrencies and decentralized applications help solve; where do they see themselves in this industry; and how are blockchain entrepreneurs disrupting industries now—and how might they do so in the future?
“Blockchains can be used in many different ways besides cryptocurrencies,” Weissman said. “Blockchain is often listed as one of the leading cutting-edge technologies of the future.”
Adrian Hale, director of Economic and Community Development at Foundry, said he hopes that programming like the one at RIT “provides the necessary groundwork for people interested in our industry to become familiar with the fundamentals that will enable them to grow into fully functional contributing members of a work team and the broader blockchain community.”
About RIT Certified
RIT Certified provides alternative education-to-employment pathways, offering applied training which serves both individuals in and out of the workforce and working professionals. Committed to promoting economic mobility and sustainability for individuals from all sectors of the workforce across the region, nation, and globe, RIT Certified is a partner to employers, helping organizations develop potential, fill core and specialized skills gaps, provide outcomes-based training and development to nurture and promote talent, and improve the models by which employers evaluate and assess talent. RIT Certified will begin offering a diverse portfolio of workforce development and professional training courses and certificate programs late this fall.
About Foundry LLC
A subsidiary of DCG, Foundry LLC was created to meet the institutional demand for better capital access, efficiency, and transparency in the digital asset mining and staking industry. Headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., Foundry leverages its institutional expertise, capital, and market intelligence to empower participants within the crypto ecosystem by providing the tools they need to build tomorrow’s decentralized infrastructure. For more information, go to Foundry’s website.