Bitcoin mining has always been a topic of immense public interest. Millions of computer-savvy entrepreneurs use the process of verifying transactions to generate wealth. It is an appealing concept; very little money is required in the mining itself, and in the beginning days of Bitcoin some made thousands of dollars mining the cryptocurrency.
But as the coin became more popular, so too did the public develop an increased desire to get involved in the mining business. Consequently, tens of thousands of hopeful miners joined the market. As the market became crowded, the technical knowledge required to mine increased while the profit available from mining—the slice of the pie—became smaller and smaller for each miner.
Following the massive price spike of Bitcoin in 2017 and 2018, mining became even more exclusive and difficult. Consequently, it became more difficult for the average Bitcoin fanatic to acquire the technical knowledge and logistical requirements to facilitate an effective mining operation. Though group mining efforts presented themselves as a valid alternative, their profit was minimal, and scams are still prevalent today.
Some college students, though, are taking advantage of their education and the free internet available at their school to make some substantial profit off of mining.
These college students may be onto something. This guide will outline the reasons, methods, and results driving the new mining operations sweeping much of collegiate America.
The Mining Process
The mining process is straight-forward but becomes increasingly complicated as more miners join the field in hopes of profit. Mining is the process by which users are able to add transaction records to a blockchain’s public ledger, or information storage platform.
Verifying transactions and adding them to the public ledger is an essential aspect of Bitcoin, as well as other cryptocurrencies. The decentralized and public nature of the system seeks to keep regulatory power in the hands of consumers and out of the hands of traditional, central powers in the former economics systems it attempts to replace.
The most complicated part of the five-step mining process is the solving of the “Proof of Work problem,” an algorithm which must be satisfied before the details of the block, or the verified transaction, are added to the local and global blockchain network.
These equations have become increasingly difficult to solve as more miners work to verify smaller and smaller slices of transactions on the massive blockchain.
Advantages Of Mining In College
Several notable advantages arise from students mining on a college campus, especially when compared to mining from their own homes. An interview conducted by News Bitcoin with a miner from Fairleigh Dickison University revealed that his investments in the currency have exploded in value as Bitcoin’s price spiked to over $20,000 earlier this year.
It isn’t just him, either. A student from Western Kentucky University is reported to have made around thirty dollars each month from the mining of various cryptocurrencies.
The first advantage to mining at a college campus is obvious: free Wi-Fi. The mining student elaborated on the exuberant cost of being in the business, saying that it has gotten “ludicrous” as the price of cryptocurrencies steadily increase. This miner takes full advantage of his university’s cost-free internet access to maximize profits. Running several mining machines in all hours of the day, he leeches off of an entirely free Wi-Fi setup offered by Dickison.
Additionally, the schedule of a typical college student is absolutely conducive to constant mining. The machines require little upkeep but generate significant heat. When this heat is generated, it can become difficult to live in the space where the machines are held. Luckily, the modern college student’s schedule is so packed with up-campus activities that the student can conceivably avoid having to deal with the ramifications of a hot room for too long.
Though it may not be the best for the university, students often can also turn up their room’s air conditioning to offset the heat generated by the machines and keep things cool. This is exactly what the Dickison student continues to do.
All of this totals up to an incredible improvement to the traditional, home mining setup. Miners working from their home have to eat increasingly high costs for energy as the machines take significant CPU and use up high amounts of data on their operating network. By working on another Wi-Fi network, miners maximize profit by avoiding incurring the costs of operation within the network.
Universities Work To Fight Back
Naturally, universities do not stand to gain from student mining operations on their network. In fact, costs to colleges can be significant, especially when students take advantage of AC systems in their dorm room to lower the temperature. Because of this increasingly prevalent problem, and due to the spike in student interest in Bitcoin as prices rose, schools are attempting to prevent mining on their campus.
But preventing the operations is going to be a difficult task and will likely require substantive structural revisions within the university’s IT department and security framework.
Take, for example, the efforts of Fairleigh Dickison University to limit mining on their school’s network. News Bitcoin’s interview with the mining student revealed that he was able to take advantage of the school’s vague policy on the acceptable use of technology to continue mining at the expense of the college.
For most universities, simply banning mining on paper does little to prevent the businesses from popping up in dorms all over the campus. IT departments would have significant trouble locating and punishing violators, and some mining blockchains are increasingly sophisticated and can skirt around oppressive firewalls used by savvy IT departments.
This might change, though. The popularity of mining and the profit within Bitcoin has inspired many universities to reevaluate and revise their Wi-Fi acceptable use policies in an attempt to prevent rampant mining. Stanford University, for example, recently released a statement banning the mining of cryptocurrencies, calling it a “misuse of University equipment.”
Additionally, some universities cite fire safety regulations as a justification for the banning of mining equipment on campus. Because of the massive amounts of heat and power generated on powerful systems and the presence of flammable carpets in most dorms, it could present a safety issue to have the machines constantly running within residency buildings.
Still, though, the concerted efforts of colleges to ban the practice in writing must be accompanied by effective enforcement and evaluation methods. Thus far, these methods are difficult to conceptualize in the fast-moving day-to-day happenings of university life.
Those students planning to mine using university internet capabilities should research their school’s policy to ensure that they stay both in profit and out of trouble.
Dangers Of University Bitcoin Mining
Mining is not without its risks. Especially when mining on a shared or public network, it is important that miners try their best to conform with laws, rules, and regulations. At university, violations of student handbook policies can result in academic probation, disciplinary action and, in severe cases, suspension or expulsion.
Further, the intense heat generated by mining machines can cause disaster if they are put in a place near flammable items. Reiterating the concerns of some universities, many professionals warn that certain precautions must be taken in order for mining to be safe as well as effective.
For one example, mining machines should be equipped with some sort of cooling device on the computational mechanism, such as a computer fan. This minimizes heat and thus lowers the risk of a dangerous fire.
Conclusion: An Expanding Practice
More and more students continue to cultivate an interest in Bitcoin. Both because of the natural college student need for money and the proliferation of public exposure due to raises in cryptocurrency prices, students in all fifty states express interest in making some cash on the side using mining machines. Though few students have the work ethic to make the dream happen, many who do go on to profit significantly.
Taking a page out of the Western Kentucky and Dickison University, students all over the United States are turning to mining machines as a way to make money. But for universities that want to keep costs low and avoid the possibility of safety hazards, regulating the process is a top priority. Students should be aware of their university’s policy before investing in the technology for mining.
Additionally, college students looking to make some money off of Bitcoin by mining should look into purchasing all the necessary components to reduce the risk of fire and overheating.
In any case, the development of this collegiate practice could have drastic ramifications for laws, rules, and public conceptions of the mining process. As universities wage war on miners pirating their internet for profit, the cryptocurrency community watches eagerly to see how things develop. For students like the one from Dikison, the battle is one of substantial financial impact and personal interest.
For readers interested in running their own mining operation, research should prelude any significant investments and action.