Pangman is unmistakably impressed with everything Gardner and his peers have accomplished so far. "I feel like I'm a coach recruiting the national team for the Olympics," he says. "And I found my star point guard."
He envisions the college clubs serving as feeder programs for the professional world of Bitcoin companies. The Bitcoin economy has a market cap of $5.8 billion, and last year startups in the space received nearly $100 million in venture capital in the U.S. alone.
"Colleges are fantastic petri dishes for any kind of experiment," says Pangman, who recently added Bloch and Gardner to the Bitcoin Foundation's education committee. For his part, he's waiting for the foundation's board to approve a grant proposal he submitted that would fund a broad university outreach program. He wants to build a network of faculty, especially outside of the computer science and engineering departments where enthusiasm for Bitcoin might be expected. A peer-reviewed academic journal for cryptocurrency research, he says, "is in the offing as well."
Meanwhile, startups -- including, quite possibly, some fostered by CCN clubs -- will be working to make it possible to use Bitcoin, both the currency and the protocol, without understanding the underlying tech in all of its complexity. After all, how many casual smartphone users actually grasp the inner workings of the magic brick in their hand?
If that can happen, the sky will be the limit for Bitcoin adoption. "In the short term it may not live up to the full hype, but in the long term, Bitcoin does for money and transactions what the Internet did for communication. It sets it free," Elitzer says. "We can't fully predict where that's going to go. But you've got to respect its potential, at least, to change the world."