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Villanova 'Idea Hackathon' Aims to Address Poverty through Blockchain Technology

During the three-day event, "Alleviating Poverty with Blockchain," interdisciplinary student teams will use blockchain technology to develop design solutions to address issues of poverty

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VILLANOVA, Pa.—Interdisciplinary teams of students from across Villanova University’s schools and colleges will come together Nov. 15-17 for an ‘idea hackathon’ to examine poverty as a global epidemic and develop design solutions for tackling the issue using blockchain technology. As part of the hackathon, “Alleviating Poverty with Blockchain,” 50 students will be broken up into 10 interdisciplinary teams to explore leveraging the emerging technology of blockchain to combat poverty and promote economic growth. The initiative is being led by faculty in the College of Engineering and Villanova School of Business (VSB), with support from across the University.

Pritpal Singh, PhD, a professor in the College of Engineering’s department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, began the initiative. “Blockchain offers some special features, such as transparence and immutability, that can help to develop innovative solutions to problems,” he said. “Engineers can leverage their technical skills to address societal challenges in many ways. We are excited to bring multi-disciplinary perspectives to creatively build novel solutions to alleviate poverty.”

During the event, students will learn from guest speakers about why poverty continues to be a persistent global challenge. The goal is to raise awareness about the factors that cause poverty and, while keeping global poverty in mind, promote ideas to address the issues of poverty and promote economic development locally in Philadelphia.

“Mentors of blockchain technology and those with experience addressing poverty will engage with our student teams to enrich their knowledge throughout the idea hackathon weekend,” says Hasshi Sudler, a Villanova alumnus and adjunct professor in the University’s College of Engineering, who teaches cyber security and blockchain technology.

Finding new ways to address poverty is connected to Villanova’s Augustinian values. “Our mission with this event is to help the community by taking these ideas and thinking about projects to make these concepts a reality, says Michael S. Pagano, PhD, Professor of Finance in the VSB.

The hackathon will address the complex dimensions of poverty, and what allows it to persist, with the emerging technology of blockchain. The primary objective of the event is for students from across all colleges within the University to work together and come up with creative solutions to apply blockchain to the issues that lead to poverty and ultimately change some of the fundamental contributors of poverty creation. 

“There is a large population of people who cannot get bank loans or even bank accounts,” adds Sudler, who is also CEO of the cyber security firm Internet Think Tank.  “Using blockchain technology could be a game-changer for regions across the country and around the world where people are unable to engage in financial markets. For example, it is possible to apply the unique features of blockchain to create a community currency that a region could use to uplift its local economy.”

The topic of blockchain is a growing trend in the classroom, with courses in VSB and Engineering exploring the subject. Villanova students involved in blockchain on campus are excited for the opportunity to shape ideas based on this technology to tackle poverty.

"This is a tremendous platform for creative students to learn by doing,” says David Bettenhausen, a VSB student and founder and president of the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence Society student group. “It's so important to explore opportunities to solve global problems through emerging technologies like blockchain. It's even more valuable to work together to fully develop these strategies into well-thought-out solutions."

The Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence Society—which has more than 140 students—focuses on emerging technologies poised to disrupt the business world as we know it. The organization gives students the opportunity to learn about the role of these technologies in business and creates a platform for them to access entrepreneurs, corporate professionals, and post-graduation opportunities at the frontier of innovation.

Here is the schedule of events for the Hackathon:

Dates: November 15-17

Locations: Villanova University’s Idea Lab and Center for Engineering Education and Research (CEER), Rooms 104 and 105

Friday, Oct. 25, 4-7pm — Pre-Hackathon Orientation

Friday, Nov. 15, 4-9pm — Registration and Opening

Saturday, Nov. 16, 9am-9pm — Teams Build Solutions

Sunday, Nov. 17, 9am-2pm — Presentations and Awards

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit