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MIT students will get $100 worth of Bitcoins each in virtual currency experiment

In an experiment with Bitcoin that hopes to promote the virtual currency, MIT students are to be given $100 (£60) worth of Bitcoins each when they return to classes in the autumn.

The scheme has been set up by second-year undergraduate Jeremy Rubin, who developed a Bitcoin project to replace online ads with Bitcoin mining perks for site owners, and student Daniel Elitzer, the founder of MIT's Bitcoin club.

They haven't dipped into their own pockets for the cash, but instead have managed to raise over $500,000 (£300,000) to put the project in action, the majority of which comes from a high frequency trader and former MIT student Alexander Morcos.

The idea is to see how some 4,500 MIT students put their chunk of cryptocurrency to use – and what they might build and innovate with to entice fellow students to splash their Bitcoins.

According to the Guardian, Elitzer said: "We want to issue a challenge to some of the brightest technical minds of a generation: 'When you step on to campus this fall, all of your classmates are going to have access to Bitcoin; what are you going to build to give them interesting ways to use it?'"

The hope is that folks will see the benefits and convenience of Bitcoin, and perhaps spark further usage beyond the project – although the climate surrounding the virtual currency is frosty at the moment, given the recent MtGox collapse and ensuing controversy. Many people simply don't understand Bitcoin, as well.

Whatever your view on virtual currencies (Bitcoin isn't the only one – in fact, there are many others), the experiment will be an interesting one to monitor later this year. Although it's hardly analogous to first giving students Internet access back in the day, as Rubin suggested...