University Node Operators & Governance Delegates Program

Gm,

This is a request for feedback on a grant to help onboard universities as node operators and governance delegates. Any and all feedback will be reviewed and appreciated.

Rocketpool University Node Launch Program

Presented by StakeRocketPool & 404 DAO

=== Project ===

  • What is the work being proposed?

The program will increase education and growth of Rocketpool node operators and rETH holders through the funding of LEB8 nodes for university organizations globally.

We are requesting funding for a comprehensive program to jumpstart Rocket Pool nodes at universities to engage university students in running Rocket Pool nodes, helping with governance decisions, and onboarding new community members through educational content.

Here is a quote from the University of Cincinnati’s Cryptoeconomics lead professor, Dr. Michael Jones, on the program:

“Setting up a Rocket Pool Ethereum node is an invaluable exercise for students, providing them with a hands-on understanding of blockchain technology. This isn’t just about technical knowledge - it’s about becoming an active participant in a rapidly evolving digital economy. By validating transactions on the Ethereum network and participating in governance decisions, students are strengthening a decentralized ecosystem that values transparency, security, and inclusivity. This experience cultivates an innovative mindset that is critical for future web3 leaders." - Michael Jones, PhD, Kautz-Uible Assistant Professor of Economics

Quote #2

  • Is there any related work this builds off of?

  • Yes, the StakeRocketPool team’s University Governance program (link).

    • Zero funding has been requested thus far to engage university students into Rocket Pool governance through StakeRocketPool’s voting rights.
    • In the process of working with university students on governance, we realized we needed to find a way to fund hands-on Rocket Pool node operators to be truly impactful in the Rocket Pool community.
  • With feedback from community members, we put this program together to drive adoption of Rocket Pool node operators around the world through trusted institutions (universities) to help onboard new talent and governance direction to our Rocket Pool ecosystem.

=== Benefits === - enter N/A where appropriate

  • How does this help people looking to stake ETH for rETH?
    • New educational resources created from trusted institutions will enable more people to learn the what, why, and how to stake Ethereum with Rocket Pool.
  • How does this help rETH holders?
    • New educational resources created from trusted institutions will enable more people to learn the what, why, and how to stake Ethereum with Rocket Pool.
  • How does this help people looking to run a Rocket Pool node for the first time?
    • This program will create one new ‘How-To’ Guide per university for how to start from zero to running an LEB8 Rocket Pool minipool (node).
    • New educational resources created from trusted institutions will enable more people to learn the what, why, and how to run an Ethereum independent validator with Rocket Pool.
    • New educational resources created from trusted institutions on why it is important and advantageous to run an LEB8 Rocket Pool node.
  • How does this help people already running a Rocket Pool node?
    • Students’ perspectives and research on how to improve Rocket Pool node operation will occur through the program as students learn by doing to run their first local node.
    • Increasing the participation of node operation and governance with the leading trusted institutions will help to improve the resources available to the community of growing node operators.
  • How does this help the Rocket Pool community?
    • Increasing the participation of node operation and governance with the leading trusted institutions will help to improve the resources available to the community of growing node operators.
    • Including university students in governance will help to ensure Rocket Pool remains the welcoming and decentralized community of Ethereum node operators and stakers around the world working together to create the future of Ethereum that we (early adopters) always envisioned for Rocket Pool.

=== Team ===

  • Who is doing the work?

    • StakeRocketPool
      • Provision of the Ethereum loans for the LEB8 minipool.
      • Provision of the Proteus Hardware device for the LEB8 minipool.
      • Guidance and support to the university students and program launch
      • Monthly Governance Review Meeting
        • Guides the Rocket Pool University Governance Program until there is a new leading organization (such as 404 DAO or one specific university).
    • 404 DAO (Georgia Tech)
      • Creation of a Rocket Pool LEB8 Node How-To Launch Guide.
      • Creation of the University Rocket Pool Program
        • Support of the University Rocket Pool Program for 12 months or until a new organization or group is identified.
      • Monthly Governance Review Meeting
        • Participates in the monthly meetings by providing research, analysis, and reporting based on the Georgia Tech university students organization.
    • University of Cincinnati
      • Creation of a Rocket Pool LEB8 Node How-To Launch Guide
      • Creation of a rETH How-To Stake Guide
      • Support to the second University organization to launch an LEB8 Node
      • Monthly Governance Review
        • Participates in the monthly meetings by providing research, analysis, and reporting. See a recent example here.
  • What is the background of the person(s) doing the work? What experience do they have with such projects in the past?

StakeRocketPool started as a node operator in June 2022 and my team and I have been in the crypto space since 2015. We have created thought leadership blog posts (here), DeFi How-To Guides (here), and started a University Governance program (example video) with our own validators to help grow the community with the best talent we can attract.

KentPhilly.eth is the lead partner of StakeRocketPool and he volunteered at ETH Denver this year for the community. Kent has worked within Web3 and fiat on-ramps over the last 4 years and is an active member in the Trusted Seed (Regen community) and active governance voter for Aave, Uniswap, Arbitrum, Hop, NFTx, and others.

404 DAO is represented by one of their Co-Founders, Cole Schendl, who previously served as Executive Director and Co-founder of Blockchain at Georgia Tech. 404 DAO is a 501c(3) nonprofit that focuses on upscaling developer and student talent throughout the Southeast United States. This is accomplished through their 3 main core initiatives, the 404 Accelerator, Web3 ATL conference, and Governance delegation in partnership with Blockchain at Georgia Tech.

  • What is the breakdown of the proposed work, in terms of milestones and/or deadlines?

Milestones

200 RPL Granted to start the program and launch 2 university nodes.

  1. University #1 Program Launch with University of Cincinnati
  • University #1 Node Live
  • University #1 Governance Participation
  • How to Launch a Node & Stake Ethereum with Rocket Pool Guides
    • University #1 version - How to Launch a Rocket Pool Node
    • University #1 version - How to Stake Ethereum & Earn with Rocket Pool
  1. University #2 Program Launch with Georgia Tech
  • University #2 Node Live
  • University #2 Governance Participation
  • Lessons Learned and How-To Guides
    • University #2 version - How to Launch a Rocket Pool Node
    • University #2 version - How to Stake Ethereum & Earn with Rocket Pool

200 RPL Granted to upon completion of milestone #2 - Estimated 120 days after project launch

  1. University #3 Program Launch with TBD
  • University #3 Node Live
  • University #3 Governance Participation
  • Lessons Learned and How-To Guides
    • University #3 version - How to Launch a Rocket Pool Node
    • University #3 version - How to Stake Ethereum & Earn with Rocket Pool
  1. University #4 Program Launch with TBD
  • University #4 Node Live
  • University #4 Governance Participation
  • Lessons Learned and How-To Guides
    • University #4 version - How to Launch a Rocket Pool Node
    • University #4 version - How to Stake Ethereum & Earn with Rocket Pool

100 RPL Granted to upon completion of milestone #4 - Estimated 150 days after launch

  1. University #5 Program Launch with TBD
  • University #5 Node Live

  • University #5 Governance Participation

  • Lessons Learned and How-To Guides

    • University #5 version - How to Launch a Rocket Pool Node
    • University #5 version - How to Stake Ethereum & Earn with Rocket Pool
  • How is the work being tested? Is testing included in the schedule?

The program will be tested, reviewed, and validated after each university has completed their first 90 days in the program.

Testing is included in the schedule with the requirement that each university runs a testnet node before they are given the Mainnet tokens to launch an LEB8 minipool.

An initial test of this program is in process now with the University of Cincinnati with a Proteus hardware device on testnet.

  • How will the work be maintained after delivery?

The StakeRocketPool team will support the 404 DAO with a percentage of the staking rewards from each node (10-20% based on milestones) for the services that the 404 DAO provides to universities in the program.

The 404DAO will support each university with any technical or node operation support, at a max of (TBD ~ 10 hours) a month.

Each university will be required to support the next university that is onboarded as a mentor to ensure a smooth transition of knowledge and support from students to students.

=== Payment and Verification ===

  • What is the acceptance criteria?

The acceptance criteria will be based on the below outputs.

  1. The number of new LEB8 minipools run by universities

  2. Milestones of Universities

1. 0-2 University Nodes Live - Phase 1
2. 2-4 Universities Nodes Live - Phase 2

Future grants could be requested if phases 1

  1. 5 Universities Nodes Live - Phase 3
  2. 10 University Nodes Live - Phase 4
  3. 50 University Nodes Live - Phase 5
  • What is the proposed payment schedule for the grant? How much RPL and over what period of time is the applicant requesting?

  • 200 RPL within 30 days of approval of the proposal - Estimated August 2023

  • 200 RPL Granted to upon completion of milestone #2 - Estimated 120 days after project launch ~ December 2023

  • 100 RPL Granted to upon completion of milestone #2 - Estimated 120 days after project launch ~ January 2024

  • How will the GMC verify that the work’s deliveries match the proposed cadence?

  • The 404 DAO and StakeRocketPool will provide monthly updates on the project rollout.

  • The address of each new LEB8 validator will be provided before the funding is requested.

    • The RPL granted will remain the the wallet address provided and be able to be confirmed that the address is an active validator on a monthly basis.

=== Conflict of Interest ===

  • Does the person or persons proposing the grant have any conflicts of interest to disclose?

StakeRocketPool, Kent Philly, the 404 DAO, and Cole Schendl have no affiliation with any other Ethereum Liquid Staking Protocols. Kent Philly does test out competitor products and solutions, but does not take endorsement or promotion from any project today. We are Rocket Pool loyalists who are open to working with any project that supports a decentralization and robust developer ecosystem on Ethereum.

  • Will the recipient of the grant, or any protocol or project in which the recipient has a vested interest (other than Rocket Pool), benefit financially if the grant is successful?

Yes, all parties will benefit financially if the grant is successful.

  • The Universities will be able to earn Ethereum and RPL staking rewards for completing educational content and helping onboard new university node operators and governance participants.
    • 0-10% of Staking Rewards for their own LEB8 minipool
  • The 404 DAO (Georgia Institute of Technology student organization) will earn Ethereum and RPL staking rewards for running the program and helping onboard new university node operators and governance participants.
    • 10-20% of Staking Rewards for each LEB8 minipool
  • The StakeRocketPool team (private investors lead by Kent Philly) will earn the RPL granted for each LEB8 minipool in return for the Ethereum loans, hardware donations, and time spent supporting the program’s launch and successful completion of project milestones.
2 Likes

Hey Feelingood,

Thank you for submitting this early for the community to review and leave feedback.

I had trouble accessing one of the Google documents that was linked within your University Governance program page. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants - The Web3 Gwei — StakeRocketPool

Will you have data on how many students, staff, etc. participate in the program?

2 Likes

Can you clarify, where does the LEB8 bond and RPL come from initially?
I can see StakeRocketPool provides the initial funds and equipment.

On the surface, the idea is good. I began, but have not pursued, a dialogue with my grad school alma matter, Northwestern University about running nodes. I would prefer, of course, they get their own grant funding for Node bonds/RPL, but I’m not from the CS department, so I’m not very familiar with how that works for them and how competitive such grant funding is (although the University itself could very well provide such funding).

I gotta read through this in more detail, though.

2 Likes

Hey! Some questions about the proposal:

  1. Can you give a breakdown of the expected costs of the project and how the funds will be used in relation to them, if at all? For example, will the RPL awarded be used to purchase equipment? Finance the ETH bond?

  2. How will custody of the nodes work? How can we ensure that no future club member runs away with all the assets?

  3. How can you demonstrate that the university is benefitting from the node?

I’m sure I’ll have more questions in the future – big fan of the idea in the proposal and I believe with some refinement it can be successful.

2 Likes

What would stop whoever controls the node from exiting the validators right away after GMC pays the RPL? You know, it all gets set up and running, 200 RPL paid, validators exited.

2 Likes

This looks interesting. I have a few comments as a University Professor currently teaching two modules in blockchain/Web3.

‘New educational resources created from trusted institutions will enable more people to learn the what, why, and how to stake Ethereum with Rocket Pool.’

I would drop this. While it sounds good on paper many Unis would be cautious about their academics publishing work focused on a specific staking pool like this. It is probably better to think in terms of how these nodes and their use in the classroom generally promotes Rocket Pool. Further how it might develop a pipeline of students with skills in Rocket Pool. And finally how it improves decentralisation.

‘Proteus Hardware device.’

I get this is a cheap option, but I wonder if its a little too techie for a classroom.

‘Monthly meeting.’

While Rocket Pool folk might want to meet monthly, it might be offputting to have a monthly meeting hanging over you as an academic.

‘Each university will be required to support the next university that is onboarded as a mentor to ensure a smooth transition of knowledge and support from students to students.’

I think this is an undue burden. When you get a grant you really don’t want to be taking on jobs.

‘The Universities will be able to earn Ethereum and RPL staking rewards for completing educational content and helping onboard new university node operators and governance participants.’

Again this is making the University an employee rather than a grantee. They should be rewarded for adding their reputation alone, that is enough.

Maybe I’m missing something, but the Unis will earn 0-10%, 404 DAO 10-20%, so does approx 70% go to the private investors? I might be misreading this.

4 Likes

Thanks for the feedback.

Question 1) I’ve asked @regexbuster to make the past analysis public. Here are new links for all of the University Governance Content Created thus far.

Question 2) - Tracking data on how many students, staff, etc. participate in the program?

Yes. We will host the data on the StakeRocketPool website or to create a new website with all of the University Content for clear tracking moving forward.

Expectation for participation per university are estimated at 5-10 students and 1 professor/staff per university per program round.

  • 2-4 students running the node
  • 3-5 students participating in governance analysis and voting
  • 1 lead professor/staff of the university (with signing power for the university)

This will evolve over time, with the goal of giving a 3-6 month “internship” experience to students via node operation or governance voting. The net impact is estimated at 10-20 student interns per university per year.

Good call out. The program will require a multi-signature wallet that is controlled by Rocket Pool delegates, University Blockchain Clubs, and StakeRocketPool.

Using a Safe multi-sig address for the Withdrawal address of each node can ensure that there is not a rug pull of the RPL granted.

Any feedback on the number of signers for the multi-signature wallet is appreciated. The intent is to ensure 2/3 of the individual groups agrees to ensure that not one of the groups can rug pull alone.

Yes, StakeRocketPool provides the ETH loan, Proteus hardware device, and 1:1 and 1:many training on how to get started.

Helping Universities run nodes is hard. We have a chicken and the egg problem. Students want hands-on opportunities and universities programs want to earn grants for work, but they don’t have the funding to bootstrap the ETH and RPL required to run a node.

Today, the top university blockchain clubs have LLC’s that hold the tokens and run the nodes (ex. at Berkeley, UPenn, or Georgia Tech). To protect the university and the students, a separate LLC has been setup for each blockchain club that receives grants today. We plan to use this same model until universities are able to own tokens themselves.

If we wait for universities to be able to hold tokens I’m betting they’ll chose Coinbase Institutional or an CEX. The reason why I bet this is that’s what one university is working on a deal with now to get a $50K grant to hold tokens remotely via an “institutional provider”. Helping the hard working university students who can help improve governance voting and node operator guides or educational Rocket Pool content is who this program targets to start. Thanks for your thoughts.

1 Like

Hi Rocket Pool community & GMC,

Here is an updated proposal with a clear ask of RPL to fund Ethereum and Rocket Pool nodes to be run on-site at Universities around the world, starting with the University of Cincinnati in phase #1 of 3 phases in this grant request.

Here is the summary:

We are requesting funding for 5 new Rocket Pool nodes run locally at leading Universities. The total funding request is for 700 RPL or 150 RPL per university.

The RPL will be used to finance the ETH bond per university and to run the programs to onboard each university in running a node locally as well to participating in Rocket Pool governance.

Rocket Pool node operator or governance internships will create new onboarding guides and research to support the most vibrant Rocket Pool ecosystem ahead.

Here is a quote from the first university, the University of Cincinnati’s Dr. Michael Jones, the lead professor of the school’s Cryptoeconomics Lab:

Setting up a Rocket Pool Ethereum node is an invaluable exercise for students, providing them with a hands-on understanding of blockchain technology. This isn’t just about technical knowledge - it’s about becoming an active participant in a rapidly evolving digital economy.

By validating transactions on the Ethereum network and participating in governance decisions, students are strengthening a decentralized ecosystem that values transparency, security, and inclusivity. This experience cultivates an innovative mindset that is critical for future web3 leaders." - Michael Jones, PhD, Kautz-Uible Assistant Professor of Economics

We look forward to community feedback before submitting in next grants forum for funding of phase 1 in the next cycle, if approved. Thank you for your time and input.

Students can learn to set up a Rocket Pool node on the testnet.

They can participate in the governance by convincing node operators to delegate to them. This would be even more impactful than buying voting power.

University of Cincinnati’s endowment is $1.775 billion.

1 Like

I really like the governance idea floated by @peteris. I’d absolutely shill for getting delegation to a university club that wrote out their reasoning on votes, eg. I think this side is significantly more valuable experience than the mechanics of running smartnode.

3 Likes

This is a cool initiative to see. I have some observations from our time working with student delegation groups from Maker that might be helpful, and a couple of potential suggestions for the proposal draft:

Pros and Cons of University Club Participation

(+)

  • Great way to spread awareness and aid in the decentralization of voting power.
  • Lots of potential partnerships stem from University Clubs, things like event sponsorship, speaking opportunities, guest lectures for protocol contributors, and matching grants programs to name a few.
  • When some student groups join, others tend to follow. Even with only sponsoring a few groups through a grant, more will likely come as University Clubs/offerings are highly competitive. Having blockchain groups is a great draw from applicants and seeing peers participate is a great signal for other schools.

(-)

  • Potential for poor participation. Our incentive system was quite different at Maker, but often University Clubs could have qualified for decent compensation simply by voting and communicating their votes. I suspect this setup is even more vulnerable to participation decay as the incentive is given entirely upfront.
  • Potential lack of meaningful context. Being a student involves a lot of work, leaving less time to learn about the context for votes and node obligations. This is a problem for anyone, but the diffusion of responsibility among a busy group (like students) might make this more likely to occur.
  • Potentially bad precedent to set. Since most of the incentive structure around Rocketpool is based on NOs having a meaningful stake, setting the precedent that the stake can be gifted might be dangerous. Not arguing for a slippery slope here, but objectively if you do this for one subgroup of participants, other participants will seek the privilege as well and Governance will have to answer and justify their decisions.

Potential Proposal Improvements

I think the following could make the proposal stronger and wouldn’t involve too much groundwork/ too many changes for @FeelingoodFeelingrt:

  • Identify the rest of the schools for the program. You can check the historical record of delegates at Maker, or other governance delegation programs like Uniswap to grab some potential candidates.
  • Require some stake from university/school clubs. 50-50 seems reasonable, but any stake on their end would be beneficial. If you wanted to maintain the idea of RP funding the project, you could stream 1/2 of the requested RPL back to the clubs for continued performance.
2 Likes

Just for some general colour as to what reasoning threads tend to look like from university delegate programs here’s some examples from Maker and others. Imo quality can vary a lot, and is more dependent on the individuals and groups involved (just like any other delegate.)

Worth noting Maker’s delegates have the potential to earn ongoing compensation.

And from some other DAOs. Having done a cursory search, I think some delegates in Aave have been incentivized recently. Fairly sure there isn’t any incentivisation in Uniswap.


Delegation is interesting, so here are some other arguably off-topic thoughts which are hidden below:

Delegation Thoughts

I do think it helps a great deal to have some sort of on-going financial incentive connected to the requirement to post reasoning for votes (obviously). The requirement to post reasoning sounds really simple, but actually if you are serious about doing it properly, it will consume a fair amount of time.

The mechanism at Maker prior to the recent change in how delegation works was that:

  • Delegates could receive more or less compensation based on the amount of tokens they had been delegated.
  • Delegates were required to vote consistently, and post reasoning consistently to be eligible to receive any compensation.
  • Because reasoning had to be posted publicly, the quality and effort put into reasoning could be used as an input for token holders wanting to delegate, in theory leading to competitive pressure on delegates to do a good job at decision-making and communication.
  • This mechanism requires token holders to actively redelegate in favour of good delegates. In practice at Maker, this did not happen consistently enough to introduce enough competitive pressure to prevent less effective delegates being compensated.

Which is all a long winded way of saying: I think that some sort of ongoing incentive mechanism (even one that doesn’t introduce enough competitive pressure) is a requirement to get consistently communicated reasoning out of delegates.

2 Likes

Excellent feedback. The only additional info I have is that if a protocol doesn’t pay for the help, I’ve seen a16z pay students for the work.

Quality and consistent analysis will require payment. My hope is that we can match the lowest industry incentives and work the payments up once there is more validation of the value provided to the community.

I will plan to use this thoughts with the future grant.
Thank you.

Good points. @regexbuster can you please help me update the model and add the additional schools?

We’ll make updates before we apply for the grant. Thank you.

Michael Jones weighing in here - prof at the university of cincinnati. Thanks for the feedback. @FeelingoodFeelingrt has been extremely helpful with input and guidance on this project. The cryptoeconomics lab is happy to provide the hardware, space, etc. to get this project going. I can even help to pay students in the lab as research assistants, but the university isn’t going to sign off on providing its own stake. It’s not that we don’t have the resources. It’s that UC is still a state institution and there’s too much uncertainty about classifying self-custody crypto in the first place. And then there’s a whole can of worms that would be opened if it was staked.

1 Like