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Private Platform for Teaching Blockchain at the Undergraduate Level

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Computing and Information Technology Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Computing and Information Technology

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Paper Authors


Emil H Salib James Madison University

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Professor in the College of Integrated Science and Engineering at James Madison University.
Current Teaching - Networking & Security, Introductory Programming and Cross Platform Mobile Application Development.
Current Research - Private Cloud Computing, Private Cellular Networking & Security, Mobile IPv6 and Design for Motivation Curriculum.

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Blockchain technology is positioned to change the way we execute and manage contracts (and associated transactions and records) between individuals and/or organizations from being highly centralized (through agencies) to being de-centralized (directly between the concerned parties and communities). In the implementation of this technology for public use, by design, once a chain is created (through the generation of a genesis/root block), no one has access to modify the genesis block itself, however, participants can add additional blocks to the chain but not modify them once mined or validated. There is no way to start over in the public Blockchain implementation! In addition, trying to teach this Blockchain technology has been fairly challenging. The main reason is the abstract concept of the Blockchain. These present significant challenges to introduce the Blockchain technology in the undergraduate curriculum and demystify the Blockchain network and its inner workings.

In this project, two students and their advisor embarked on defining, designing, and constructing, configuring a Private Blockchain implementation (the chain and the network) where they have control of its components without the unpredictability of the events triggered and activities produced typically by the participants on the public Blockchain and network. The product of this endeavor was the creation of a complete virtual environment and detailed documentation of the steps necessary to construct a private Blockchain network that can be readily utilized by educators and students to teach and learn the inner workings of Blockchain technology. Constructing an isolated Blockchain network is an essential step in understanding how consensus works. One of the most challenging aspect of this project is how to overcome the negative connotations associated with the technology because of the crypto currency Bitcoin Blockchain. As a result, we proposed to demonstrate how it is used for the exchange of “value” in general rather than only the exchange of money.

In this paper, we present how we used the Ethereum framework in the implementation and delivery of a private robust and flexible Blockchain network and platform. In addition, we delivered a lab manual with five (5) well-written and tested undergraduate hands-on lab exercises that can be used by students and educators to efficiently learn, teach, and explore the Blockchain technology and its inner workings. The hands-on exercises focus on the creation of the genesis block, the setup of Blockchain nodes, and the creation of accounts/wallets to make use of the nodes. Also, they challenge the students in the creation and submission of smart contract, and verification of transaction blocks through a proof-of-work consensus algorithm. A preliminary assessment of the lab exercises by undergraduate students allowed us to present in this paper a well tested set of lab exercises.

Salib, E. H. (2021, July), Private Platform for Teaching Blockchain at the Undergraduate Level Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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