Illini Blockchain Updates - First Edition!
👋🏾 Welcome to Illini Blockchain Updates - the newsletter that gives you a sneak peek into one of the fastest growing blockchain orgs in the nation.
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Welcome to the first edition of Illini Blockchain Updates. 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 email@example.com.
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.
We accepted 8 researchers and 6 developers out of a pool of 141 applicants (<10% acceptance rate). We got some absolute killers and are very excited to see what they will be able to do within Illini Blockchain.
Along the way, we built up an 425+ person email list and 425+ person discord server that are only continuing to grow.
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: Did a general project overview and defined the scope of our project. Answered various questions including:
Lending protocols, how do they work?
How does BendDAO work?
One Cool Thing: Someone in Texas tokenized their house and put it up as collateral to take out a loan (on Teller Finance). Tokenized economy really opens the door for on-chain collateralized loans. Going beyond jpeg NFTs!
Struggle: So many design decisions to be made, so many cool directions to take it :)
This Week: Deeper dive into how lending protocols work under the hood (code); Start building our system design and layout of smart contracts; Learn more about Solidity code used in production (Solidity By Example)
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: Anchor tutorials. Example Anchor project. General project overview. First steps.
One Cool Thing: Decentralized juries have more use cases than just e-commerce. We looked at Kleros, an EVM protocol that holds on-chain courts to make decisions on things like Proof of Humanity disputes and more.
Struggle: Project design can be taken in many different directions in an effort to balance customizability with user/developer experience.
This Week: Start building smart contracts. Create a game plan for what we want to accomplish this sem and meet with Solana DevRel for advice.
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.
One Cool Thing: The code to download the transaction history of bitcoin was approximately 5 lines long.
Struggle: The raw data from the node itself is around 600GBs. We want to construct a graph database that relates this information in a meaningful way. Even the most basic implementation will take 6X the space of the raw data alone, so around 3600GB, which is a lot for an AWS instance.
This Week: Index the raw data into a CSV file and insert it into the graph database (Neo4j). Will be done on a seperate AWS instance, so that Bitcoin archive node is seperate from the database.
Researcher #1: Startup Team
What they do: Reaching out to different start-ups to do deep dive breakdowns, beta test products, & consult on projests.
Last Week: We each wrote a Twitter thread on an interesting web3 startup. We also started outreach and have 3 potential startups we’re going to be working with!
One Cool Thing: One of our potential partners INSISTED that we use the Wolf of Wall Street meeting intro for our meeting. The rules are:
I. Wolf of Wall Street rule (shoot the shit get to know eachother)
II. Cannot talk about meeting content for the first ~5 minutes
III. Talk about person you’re meeting with
IIII. Talk about you/ what you’re doing
Always leave 3-5 mins for next steps.
Struggle: Coordinating the team and delegating responsibilities to different people.
This Week: Fleshing out the details of our startup partnerships in the pipeline.
Researcher #2: Beginner Research Team
What they do: Partnering with 101.xyz to create a beginner-level web3 course about the Ethereum Platform
Last Week: 3 jam sessions talking about different topics including consensus mechanisms, L1/L2/Bridges, wallets, & more. Developing the project scope and what we want to cover within the course.
Struggle: Figuring out our end deliverable (in addition to the small course) and understanding the mechanics of consensus mechanisms.
This Week: Finish off jam sessions & rough draft deliverables/explanations
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. Here’s a list of topics they plan to cover:
Current applications + best companies/startups in the space
Comparison to Traditional Finance (TradFi)
Data analytics dashboards on relevant trends (ex: country use)
Last Week: Brainstormed ideas and everyone looked into a topic of their interest
One Cool Thing: On-chain analytics is fascinating
Struggle: Finding data based on countries. There is so much information it’s hard to synthesize and find the important bits.
This Week: Consolidating research and begin utilizing SQL to organize data
Community Events Team
Context: We have many students who want to get involved with Illini Blockchain (141 applicants and ~450 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: We hosted Cory Levy for a fireside chat a while back. Read about it here. We also added Muskan to team & watched Roblox host a metaverse event. We are hosting an event with Binance on 10/25. We also locked in a Variant Fund event for 11/2 and Quant event for 11/9.
One Cool Thing: Lots of orgs want to work with us!
Struggle: So many responsibilities, not being proactive about event planning. Not the biggest deal at the moment because events are far away, but it will eventually catch up.
This Week: Rent rooms for events, plan Binance event, get Muskan up to date
Merch: Shoutout to Solana, NEAR, BAF, and the Gies College of Business for sponsoring our merch.
Team Trips: Our team took a trip this past weekend (Oct 14-15th) to Chicago to attend TechChicago Off-Campus and tour crypto offices like Jump Trading!
Thats it! Thanks for reading our first edition of Illini Blockchain Updates, written by Samir Sheikh, Kevin Stumbris, and Luke Clancy. This newsletter will be shipped on a bi-weekly basis so stay tuned for the next post on Monday, October 31st!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. That being said that’s all from us, as a parting gift we’ll leave you with some photos from our team trip to Chicago.
Team Pic from Chicago
Here, you can see our team at Jump Trading’s the Pit and at Chicago’s famous Bean.