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Denver Kids in the news: Finding a good use for blockchain technology will take a community

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Article by , The Denver Post

EthDenver, one of the largest Ethereum blockchain hackathons, convenes in Denver and shows off new tools and partnerships between hackers and local community
Pictured below: Members of Denver Kids run to find prizes hidden under the tables during EthDenver, one of the largest hackathons for the blockchain tech Ethereum, Saturday Feb. 17, 2018 at The Sports Castle. The 36-hour hackathon aims to find news ways to utilize the network and build a decentralized future. (Photo by Daniel Brenner/Special to the Denver Post)

But finding new uses for the burgeoning technology known as Ethereum blockchain was just a part of EthDenver, which was attended by a wide range of non-techies, including Denver public school students, the city’s elections office and politicians. Paving the way for this technology to become secure, trustworthy and mainstream will take a community.

“My inclination is to want to encourage the industry to self-police (and) set up a standard that isn’t just understandable by government but to some extent adoptable by government,” said District Attorney George Brauchler of the 18th Judicial District during a panel on blockchain public policy. “Right now there are 48 different data breach notification policies out there, one for every state plus whatever the federal government requires to be done. That is unmanageable. That is untenable.”

Blockchain, the foundation for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, runs on a decentralized network of computers that keeps a record of things such as buying or selling bitcoins. Ethereum, a version of blockchain, goes further: Instead of trading just digital currency, it can support apps and smart contracts and keep items and transactions authentic, like a contract to buy a house. But it’s still hard for many to get their head around. So, EthDenver became more than just a hackathon.

“We wanted it to be a place for learning. That was the intent from the very beginning,” said Coury Ditch, an event organizer who said they reached out to key members in the industry — such as Dmitry Buterin, co-founder of education site Blockgeeks and also father to Ethereum’s young co-creator Vitalik Buterin — who helped turn the event into one of the largest of its kind, attracting more than 1,000 people. “It came together very fast.”

The event named seven winners, which included FeelGood, the developers of the blood donation system; Elkrem, offering blockchain tools for internet of things developers; and Profiler, a way to see all the costs it takes to make transactions on blockchain.

Denver Kids, which mentors students in Denver public schools, brought a team of high schoolers that knew very little about coding, let alone blockchain. The students teamed up with professionals and by Sunday had produced a fun way to use the technology: custom design of Air Jordan sneakers called CryptoKicks.

“They came in knowing nothing about blockchain technology. They met with companies developing in blockchain and got an understanding of cryptocurrency,” said Jim Goebelbecker, CEO of Denver Kids. “They recognize it goes up and it goes down; now they’re having a conversation about economics and the market volatility.”

The potential for the technology is large but still relatively unknown. Amber McReynolds, director of elections for the city of Denver, still gave it a go. She sent people from her staff to challenge the hackers to come up with better ways to secure voting forms from overseas or military users

“They return things to us now by fax or email. (Blockchain) could make it better and more efficient,” she said. “We’ve started to explore (blockchain) and talk about it. We want to investigate potential uses.”