#3 – Solana Breakpoint, ETH San Francisco, 101.xyz course, & more
👋🏾 Welcome to Illini Blockchain Updates - the newsletter that gives you a sneak peek into one of the fastest-growing blockchain orgs in the nation.
✨ If you’re a new reader, thanks for stopping by. Feel free to check out this intro post, which explains what Illini Blockchain Updates is all about.
Illini Blockchain Updates is a way for us to connect with our general community and partners to show you what cool stuff we have been up to. If any of our projects sound interesting or you’d just like to get involved shoot us a dm on twitter @ILL_Blockchain or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FYI, Illini Blockchain has 2 types of members: researchers and developers. Those members are split into sub-teams that each are working on one or more cool, unique projects.
Variant Fund Fireside Chat tomorrow November 15th @ Natural History Building Room 2079!!! Sign Up Here! Come meet Derek Walkush and Geoff Hamilton. Both are DeFi investment partners at one of the best venture capital firms in web3 - Variant Fund. Variant recently raised $450 million to invest in early stage web3 startups. We'll sit down to learn their story, predictions for the future of DeFi, & advice for college students.
Devs #1: Sap Team
Context: In the last few months, NFTs have found their way into DeFi, as holders seek for utilities beyond just the images. One of the new use cases for NFTs in DeFi is the collateralization to take out loans. While the collateralization protocols remained sound in a bull market, a number of flaws have emerged in a bear market that leaves room to explore new ideas and frameworks.
What they do: Exploring new ideas in a lending protocol, starting with a general framework for NFT collateralization with the bidding market. Eventual creation of our own lending protocol.
Last Week: Finished the server flow for efficiently posting NFT price to the blockchain (for the loan bidding functionality), essentially becoming our own oracle. Integrated a few reliable NFT price APIs for consistency and reliability.
Finished writing the server side code (for the most part) to essentially become our own oracle. Also making steady head way on lend/borrow functionality.
One Cool Thing: In search of reliable NFT price APIs, Antony cold emailed NFTBank.ai for their API key. The team got back quickly and scheduled a call and they were super excited about Illini Blockchain. There is an UIUC alumnae working at NFTBank and the company is close with Hashed, where more UIUC alumni are working.
Struggle: Understanding the code and logic of multiple functions, while figuring out how to coordinate tasks and efforts to best maximize time and resources.
This Week: Finish the basic functionalities: initiating intent to borrow, bidding a loan term sheet for an intent, accepting a loan bid, closing an intent, and closing an active bid.
Devs #2: Agora Team
Context: A decentralized marketplace would enable sellers to capture a greater sale price as profit and allow users to sell their items without the heavy rules of a centralized platform. Such a platform offers a competitive alternative to centralized marketplaces for buyers, due to lowered prices from decreased seller fees. It also expands the convenience of online shopping to the unbanked and more. Also, a project of this scope would help bridge a gap between crypto payments and real life assets, an area which still has a lot of room for improvement.
What they do: Creating a decentralized peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplace involving real life goods focused on eliminating fees and the centralized authority over traditional online marketplaces.
Last Week: Started working on the Metaplex NFT metadata creation, which is used to attach data to NFTs on Solana. We formalized the accounts for specific disputes and test scripts are being written for multiple instructions
One Cool Thing: Breakpoint was great, we talked to a lot of people very involved in Solana and now have their contact information (Chainlink, Circle, OtterSec, etc)
Struggle: Organizing account metadata in a way that is not confusing for people to query and access. Also finding a way to get off-chain tracking information on chain. Currently, we are looking at oracles to help accomplish this.
This Week: Finish a working product for the marketplace so we can start testing more intricate details.
Devs #3: Bitcoin Full Node
Context: There are different types of nodes (aka computers) that run on the Bitcoin network. One type is a full node which stores the entire blockchain history.
What They Do: Working on running a full Bitcoin node. We’d like to setup full nodes for public use at the university as well as for our own learning. This will provide access to historic blockchain data, and the ability to validate & send transactions on the network.
Last Week: This week we implemented custom types, refactored client batched RPC calls, and setup RPC auth between full node and neo4j instances. Additionally, we also started designing and iterated on the loader implementation.
One Cool Thing: Learning more about concurrency in Golang, which is sort of its specialty, and it’s showing.
Concurrency –> Distribute programs works across multiple threads or processes (similar to sharding)
Struggle: Designing our loader to be very modular. Bitcoin’s ETL process isn’t super complex in terms of this loader interface, but we want to design it with modularity in mind still.
This Week: Finish database, finish loader, start the actual ETL process going for historical data.
Researcher #1: Startup Team
What they do: Reaching out and working with different start-ups to do deep dive breakdowns, beta test products, & consult on projects
Last Week: Planning to utilize Dropverse for a scavenger hunt event in 2 weeks. Finalized plans to have Dropverse run a scavenger hunt for our hackathon in Spring. Started onboarding the teams onto 1wallet. Met with UBA and they are connecting us with hella companies.
One Cool Thing: Really excited to see how UBA connection creates more opportunities for us. Their network is VERY extensive and they have been killing the game!
Struggle: It is tough finding time to get everyone on the same call for partnership calls, especially with midterms, projects, and break coming up.
This Week: 1) Posting 1Wallet twitter thread and working on other threads for potential partners. 2) Meeting with Spawn and new Defi startup partner. 3) Meeting with Metagame and planning an event with Dropverse!
Researcher #2: Beginner Research Team
What they did: We partnered with 101.xyz to create a beginner-level web3 course about the Ethereum Platform. In under 48 hours, we had 500+ completions for our first 101.xyz. We’re pretty excited about it so if you’d like to check it out click here.
What they do: After completing our previous project, we are looking into zk-proofs: what they do, how they work, and the future implementations and use cases.
Last Week: Had our first jam session and researched the basics of zk-proofs / rollups. Learned a bit more about zk-snarks and zk-starks.
One Cool Thing: Figured out the basics and realized that ZKs are pretty awesome. I think 6/12 teams from one of the judging rooms at ETH San Francisco utilized ZK proofs in some shape or form.
Struggle: There is a lot to cover surrounding zk-proofs / rollups so we need to narrow down our focus once we get a better grasp of the landscape.
This Week: Understand zk proofs on a deeper / technical level so we can see where we want to take it for the rest of the semester. Figure out what our final deliverable is going to be.
Researcher #3: Advanced Research Team
What they do: Industry deep dives & an on-chain trend analysis on DeFi x 3rd world economies and real-world assets. They plan to cover: current applications + best companies/startups in the space, comparison to Traditional Finance (TradFi), future implications, & data analytics dashboards on relevant trends (ex: country use)
Last Week: Finally finished the article and started looking into ideas for our next project. We’re thinking about doing dashboards, so we started experimenting with Flipside Crypto. In the end, we decided to make an example dashboard about the Ethereum Merge.
One Cool Thing: The document itself is very comprehensive and dope now that we’ve finished it, definitely very engaging and we’re excited to share it with you all.
Struggle: Timing. We were hoping to have this finished sooner but there’s a lot of content to cover and a lot of revisions to be made.
This Week: Get feedback from other members and publish the final version.
Community Events Team
Context: We have many students who want to get involved with Illini Blockchain (141 applicants and ~500 on the email list), but there is no clear path for them to get involved.
What they do: Our goal would be to provide a path forward for community members to become more active.
Create a bank of research topics to dive into and get published by us
Host events with industry partners & other RSOs
Last Week: Hosted our joint event with Quant also iVenture Demo Day
One Cool Thing: Cozad new venture challenge is giving away $300k to ideas/startups and has a blockchain specific track
Struggle: Promoting events more than enough time ahead, partnering with organizations rather than asking for last minute promos
This Week: Variant Fund Fireside Chat tomorrow November 15th @ Natural History Building Room 2079!!! Sign Up Here!
Member Shoutout #1: The partnership team is looking to host a Hackathon around March/April of 2023. More details coming soon but expect it to be hosted with Jump Crypto and/or NEAR!
Member Shoutout #2: Conferences are the move!! Big shoutout for everyone who got the opportunity to go to both Solana Breakpoint and ETH San Francisco. Illini Blockchain had a blast.
Solana Breakpoint Takeaways: way better way to get opportunities, lots of people to meet in the space, many people impressed by Illini Blockchain, Europe is awesome
ETH San Francisco’s Takeaways: next time do more research onto the event (went to a pure hackathon and neither of us are technical still had a great time), the real networking and shebang happens outside of the event, many people interested in Illini Blockchain or the hackathon
Thats it! Thanks for reading our 3rd edition of Illini Blockchain Updates, written by Samir Sheikh, Kevin Stumbris, and Luke Clancy. This newsletter will be shipped on a bi-weekly basis, but due to Thanksgiving, we’re going to delay it a bit so stay tuned for the next post on Monday, December 5th.
If any of our projects sounded interesting or you’d just like to get involved shoot us a dm on twitter @ILL_Blockchain or email us at email@example.com. Have a good Thanksgiving break!!