Innovate Defense | h4D


Apply Your Knowledge, Skills and Creativity to Challenging Problems. Discover Your Untapped Potential.

Problems for Spring 2020:

  1. Tracking Security Clearances – CO National Guard
  2. Cultivating Talent – CO National Guard
  3. Let’s Warm Up! – Mountain Home Air Force Base
  4. SCIF in a Box – US Air Force
  5. Approving Tactics for Rapidly Delivered Space Systems – US Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)
  6. Identification of Inspection Topics – US Air Force Inspection Agency
  7. Getting Home Safe Shouldn’t Be Difficult – FE Warren Air Force Base
  8. Modern Government Innovation Practices – US Air Force Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP)
  9. RS Denver Poolee Development – US Marine Corps

In a crisis, national security initiatives move fast at startup speed. Yet in peacetime they default to decades-long acquisition and procurement cycles. Obviously, this isn’t cutting it. Today, our potential adversaries are able to quickly acquire and harness the power of innovations: social networks, encryption, GPS, low-cost drones, 3D printers, the Internet and many other technologies. This is your opportunity to do something about it. Learn how to design and test solutions to important national security problems with speed, urgency and creativity.

This is an interdisciplinary course offered jointly by the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Denver. Student teams will:

  • Develop technology solutions to solve important national security problems
  • Apply entrepreneurial  principles – problem validation, beneficiary discovery and business model development – to actual national security problems
  • Work collaboratively with sponsoring agencies to uncover and validate beneficiary needs
  • Continually build iterative pretotypes or pre-prototypes to test your understanding of the problem and to test your solution-problem fit

All disciplines are welcome (graduates and exceptional undergraduates). Enrollment is limited. Form a team and apply. No team yet? No problem! We’ll help match you with teammates.

Watch this video clip (~2 minutes) to get a sense of what this course is all about.

General Information

Course Title: EBGN 598 Innovate Defense (a Mines Engineering & Technology Management program elective). Or BUS 4700-02, CRN: 5373 Innovate Defense (University of Denver courses).

Instructors: Dr. Sid Saleh, Dr. Werner Kuhr and  ​Martin Katz

Course Advisors: Chris Conley, Stefanie Tompkins and others

Class Details: Spring 2020. January 8  – May 2. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 PM – 6:45 PM. Room Brown 269.

Application: Admission is by teams of 4 students (Mines and DU students) from any school or department. Limited enrollment by application.

2020 Problems

  The problems for this course generally come from the broader Defense, Intelligence, and Law Enforcement Communities.  Problems are added as we receive them – and problems posted here may be updated – so check back regularly. Do you see a problem you like? Let the lead instructor Dr. Sid Saleh know of your interest.  Need to find team members? Fill out the team formation document.

  1. Tracking Security Clearances
  2. Cultivating Talent
  3. Let’s Warm Up!
  4. SCIF in a Box
  5. Approving Tactics for Rapidly Delivered Space Systems
  6. Identification of Inspection Topics
  7. Getting Home Safe Shouldn’t Be Difficult
  8. Modern Government Innovation Practices
  9. RS Denver Poolee Development

Tracking Security Clearances


Battalion staff responsible for tracking unit security clearance status need a more efficient and accurate way to assess all unit members’ current security clearance status in order to ensure that soldiers maintain an active clearance.


The National Guard’s “Guard 4.0” program requires guard units to sustain a level of readiness that is equivalent to the active-duty soldier level. This entails the active tracking of every soldier’s security clearance level. An active security clearance allows a soldier to be more readily deployed  for the necessary missions and widens the number of missions that a soldier can be sent to. If a soldier’s clearance lapses and this fact is not caught until the time of the mission, the soldier will not be able to deploy and the whole mission will have to scramble to find a new soldier.

At the moment, security clearances are tracked through excel and maintained by a single soldier within an intelligence section. The officer is responsible for pulling data from a variety of systems including the Standard Installation and Division Personnel Reporting System (SIDPERS), the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) and the Force Management System (FMS).

Unfortunately, these systems do not communicate, and therefore require manual comparison and data migration into the aforementioned excel sheet. This process is not only time-intensive but also prone to human error. Additionally, the part-time nature of the National Guard further complicates the tracking process. Thus, there is a need for a more time-efficient way to track clearance information in order to ensure that security clearances are maintained, and it is understood when action needs to be taken to do so. 


• SIDPERS is the personnel management system for all soldiers within a unit, which is not consistently updated and does not track if a soldier has left the service.
• JPAS tracks all personnel with a clearance, but it is limited to a particular battalion and does not notify someone when a security clearance lapses.
• FMS lists all of the contact information for soldiers in a particular unit and what clearance level is required per soldier slot

Cultivating Talent


Colorado National Guard Unit Commanders need a process to maximize a new soldier’s integration into their unit in order to minimize attrition at all levels of talent in the unit.


A new soldier enters the Colorado National Guard through three different avenues. The first is as a new member who has no military background and is coming from either the private sector or following the completion of some form of schooling. The second is a lateral transition from a different military unit. And finally, the third pathway is via a delayed entry, which means potential soldiers, often high school juniors, go through basic training and then return to school to finish their General Education Degree (G.E.D.). Soldiers entering through all three avenues undergo basic training and receive general information about the Colorado National Guard before they are sent to their specific Guard units.

However, due to their diverse backgrounds and varying preparation needs, the assignment of a unit can take between several weeks and fifteen months. During this intermittent time period, the onboarding team for the Colorado National Guard loses their centralized touch point to the  incoming soldiers. This means that incoming soldiers are left without a direct point of contact or professional guidance until they are sent to their units. As a result, incoming soldiers often report feeling a lack of integration into the Colorado National Guard units and 18% leave the service before the culmination of their initial contracts. For this reason, the unit commanders need a systemic way to maximize a new soldier’s integration into the National Guard service. 


• Solution cannot require additional Colorado National Guard Personnel

Let’s Warm Up!


Air Force Maintainers need a way to reduce preventable shoulder and back injuries in order to ensure fewer maintainers are taken out of work due to injury.


Across a series of regular medical reviews, the Public Health team at Mountain Home Air Force Base has identified an uptick in maintainers’ back injuries. These maintainers are responsible for  executing all maintenance work for the jets on base. Much of this role requires repetitive overhead work, where individuals’ arms are in the air throughout the day. This intensive physical work makes these individuals prone to shoulder and back strains.

When a maintainer is taken out of work for an injury, their share of the work load falls on those left in the work center. These remaining maintainers have to work harder to meet the demands required and subsequently increase the risk of becoming injured themselves. This reinforcing feedback loop demands action to prevent injuries on the job, nurture a sustainable work environment, and reduce the costs to all individuals affected. Recently, the lack of a physical warm-up was identified as a concern for the maintainer’s physical safety. If their bodies are not ready to begin the mandatory lifting, it increases the chance of being injured. For example, some maintainers will drive more than an hour to get to work and transition directly from the car to intense overhead work. It is important for these individuals to be physically prepared for their workday. However, there currently exists no discussion, training, or incentives for maintainers to warm up. The Public Health team recognizes the importance for maintainers to warm up appropriately and their need to balance work schedule demands and address barriers to adoption. Merely recommending a warm-up without education and appropriate incentives can be natural for maintainers to ignore and present future challenges for enhancing injury prevention techniques later on.


• Must be research-backed recommendations.

SCIF in a Box 


Unit security officers need to efficiently secure large form factor system hardware in a forward deployed environment in order to reduce limited security resources.


The 21st Operations Group (OG) is an operational part of the 21st Space Wing that provides missile warning and space control to North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Strategic Command through a network of command and control units and ground-based sensors operated by geographically separated units around the world. The 21st OG makes use of systems with large physical hardware components that require particular operational conditions and heightened physical security due to the nature of their mission. The systems must be in what policy dictates as secure compartmentalized information facilities (SCIFs). In practice, the tents that are available for deployments (stateside and overseas) must be manned 24/7 by cleared security personnel to be considered a SCIF. The cost of persistent security personnel limits additional team capabilities and mission readiness. A more efficient way to secure these forward-deployed systems while keeping a small transportation footprint would enable sending additional teams to more locations and reducing excessive use of limited security resources.


  • System hardware requires a roughly 40-foot by 15-foot interior space with power, ports, and climate control.
  • Airborne cargo is limited to pallet-size loads.
  • Facilities may be used anywhere from one week to one year
  • Air Force Instructions (AFIs) and Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) 705 outline protection level requirements for SCIFs

Approving Tactics for Rapidly Delivered Space Systems


Unit-level weapons and tactics specialists need to revise and approve tactics with the increase in pace and delivery of space capabilities in order to address emerging threats and objectives with the up-to-date guidance


The Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) provides space systems and capabilities for the Air Force and the Nation. There is currently a big effort within AFSPC for more agile capability delivery in order to better respond to user demands, changing threats, and objectives. Whereas prior capabilities were built five to ten years out, current capabilities can be delivered on the order of months. The use of these capabilities to accomplish specific objectives is officially described in tactics documents published by the Air Force. These tactics serve to collect and codify best practices and lessons learned from the entire organization so every Airman can take advantage of cumulative institutional know-how. However, the process to update and republish tactics has not kept pace with the frequent iterative delivery schedule of capabilities. The tactics reviewal process typically takes 12 to 18 months for approval through multiple rounds of revision at different levels of each organization. Without relevant tactics for new or updated capabilities, Airmen are unaware of how to best accomplish their missions with their space systems. This mismatch between delivery of capabilities and their published tactics reduces effectiveness of the new agile delivery effort, defeating the very purpose of the endeavor.


• Procedural offramps exist for tweaks and variations of tactics that require additional testing.
• The scope of this problem is limited to where space systems and capabilities are being rapidly delivered within AFSPC.
• This process is owned at the headquarters level in the Weapons and Tactics branch (AFSPC/A3/6TW).

Identification of Inspection Topics


The Analysis Division of the Air Force Inspection Agency needs a way to leverage relevant data collection and analysis to Air Force missions or programs in order to recommend specific topics or trends for inspection.


Directed Inspections are high-priority, time-sensitive inspections conducted by Air Force Inspectors General (IGs) which identify deficiencies and provide recommendations on discrete topics of significant interest to the Air Force, the Department of Defense, Congress, and/or the general public. Responding on short notice to direction from DoD or Congress requires reorganization of existing inspection schedules, shifts in inspection priorities, and unplanned travel costs in order to address an “emerging” topic of importance.

Often, research conducted by non-IG entities (Government Accountability Office, Congressional Research Service, RAND Project Air Force) contains identified shortcomings within Air Force programs. However, the absence of aggregated or compiled research results obscures insight into the pervasiveness of the shortcoming(s) and the scale of the potential impact to the Air Force. Timely recognition of potential problem areas would allow the Air Force to schedule inspections to pro-actively validate deficiencies and to implement solutions, rather than responding on short notice to a Directed Inspection. The Analysis Division within the Air Force Inspection Agency is interested in exploring how existing data collection and analysis can be leveraged to achieve a more robust understanding of potential programmatic shortcomings and to make recommendations to perform pre-emptive investigations.


• Need to establish a common set of research data sources to evaluate
• Ability to update data content on a quarterly basis – does not need to be in real time

Getting Home Safe Shouldn’t Be Difficult


F.E. Warren Air Force Base DoD cardholders need a more efficient way to get home safely in order to decrease both the amount of time it takes to return to base and the rates of Airmen DUIs.


When civilians’ plans to get home safely fall through they have a plurality of options to get them
home safely in lieu of getting behind the wheel. However, this is not the case for U.S. military members, as on-base security restricts the use of ride-share apps. The Safe Ride volunteer program was developed to prevent Airmen from driving under the influence (DUI) by connecting intoxicated personnel with a volunteer driver via phone. While the program provides an alternative to driving under the influence and the ramifications of a DUI, it is extremely inefficient to the point of failure. The process can often take over an hour from call to pick up, and all information must be shared over the phone, which is both inefficient and means that directions are often  miscommunicated. Modern ride-sharing apps, which are more efficient, accurate, and don’t rely on the verbal input of intoxicated personnel, have highlighted both the inefficiency as well as potential capability new technology and processes could provide. Furthermore, younger Airmen, who are the most frequent users of the Safe Ride program and regular bar patrons, are not as accustomed to this limitation as older personnel.

At F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Airmen have the added danger of inclement weather. If an Airman is waiting outside the bar after closing, or determines that walking back to base is faster, the risk of getting hypothermia increases dramatically. The delay can also reinforce an airman’s decision to drive back to base. Therefore, Airmen need a more efficient way to get home safely when intoxicated in order to decrease waiting time and the appeal of driving back to base.


• Must not be slower than the existing solution (Safe Ride)
• Must provide information security and restrict to solely DoD ID holders

Modern Government Innovation Practices


US Air Force contracting officers and program managers need a cost-effective and efficient, scalable framework for capturing, adding to, and leveraging the intellectual property (IP) that the DoD invests in.


The Department of Defense (DoD) is working to acquire, deploy, and adapt transformational technology into existing and future combat systems. One approach to do so is to decrease the barrier to entry for vendors, thereby increasing the potential for innovative solutions through a larger pool of possible contract companies. However, working with more contractors raises the question of rights to developed intellectual property (IP) – typically an essential component of any negotiated technology development contract. IP usually resides in the associated code base of a solution. Having the DoD own the IP would allow the ability to provide Government Furnished Information (GFI), including previously developed code, for follow-on requests for proposals (RFP). This would reduce both redundant engineering and DoD dependence on a limited number of contractors who can compete for technology development.

Currently, contracting officers must negotiate the specifics of government rights to a contractor’s IP on every new contract. A solution to this problem should ensure the mutual benefit of the DoD stakeholders aiming to advance technology for the warfighter, and the DoD contractors aiming to make adequate profit to continue performing work critical to DoD technological superiority.


• Solution should capture cost effectiveness of acquiring various levels of DoD rights to IP

• Solution should address feasibility of acquiring appropriate level of DoD rights to derivative IP developed after contractors are given access to GFI
• Solution should extend to multi-level security domains

RS Denver Poolee Development


Denver recruiters need a data-driven poolee engagement process in order to minimize mental health related attrition at respective Marine Corps Recruit Depots.


Denver Recruiting Station recruiters spend approximately 80 hours prospecting, selecting, screening, and preparing each United States Marine Corps recruit for the physical and mental demands of Recruit Training. There are several touchpoints between a recruiter and poolee prior to attending recruit training, including: (1) An initial screening executed by the recruiter; (2) A consultative sales process to identified needs and motivators; (3) A psychological, medical and physical evaluation executed at the Military Entrance Process Station; (4) A process for the delayed entry program; (5) A weekly engagement/correspondence; (6) A screening through monthly mandatory group functions; and (7) A “moment of truth” where the poolees are given a final opportunity to disclose any relevant information they may have withheld. The recruiting force additionally briefs participants throughout the process to set and reinforce the standards expected and provide training on grit and resiliency.

Despite Denver Recruiting Station’s best efforts, attrition rates are higher than the station would like once poolees arrive at training. This includes a rise in discharges as a result of suicidal ideation. Recruiters spend additional time with recruits identified to be at-risk for attrition, but due to the intangible nature of mental health, these cases are often difficult to predict. The only data currently collected and correlated to attrition risk include: (1) The length of time spent in the delayed entry program; (2) Mental aptitude scores; 3) Gender specific trends; and 4) Initial Strength Test results. It is the hope of Recruiting Station Denver that improved screening, data collection, analysis and engagement by the recruiting force prior to Recruit Training can improve mental health outcomes.


• Would need to supplement or integrate with the current program of record, Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System (MCRISS)

Info Sessions

Come to Team Mixers to form or join a team around a problem that interests you.


Team Mixer #1 ~ November 13th, Noon, Library across from the circulation desk

Team Mixer #2 ~ November 20th, Noon, Library across from the circulation desk

Dates and Deadlines
  • Application Deadline – Jan 3, 2020
  • Acceptances – Ongoing
  • First Day of Class – Jan 7, 2020
Course Details


Hacking for Defense (H4D) is designed to provide students the opportunity to learn how to work with the Department of Defense (DoD) and Intelligence Community (IC) to better address the nation’s emerging threats and security challenges. (See the background here.) Unlike current practices in the DoD/IC that can stall and in some cases thwart rapid innovation, this course provides a platform to develop pretotypes that address DOD/IC users’ needs in weeks. Agencies or Commands in the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community may provide follow-on funding to student teams for further refinement and development of prototypes.  In this Hacking for Defense (H4D) course, student teams may either select from an existing set of problems provided by the DoD/IC community or introduce their own ideas for DoD/IC problems that need to be solved. Although teams pick a problem to solve, Hacking for Defense is not a product incubator for a specific technology solution. Instead, it provides teams with a deeper understanding of selected problems and the host of potential technological solutions that might be arrayed against them. Using an entrepreneurial mind-set, the course focuses teams to:

  1. Solve extremely complex real-world problems
  2. Rapidly iterate technology solutions while searching for solution-problem fit
  3. Understand all relevant stakeholders’ needs, deployment issues, costs, resources, and ultimate mission value
  4. Deliver minimum viable products (pretotypes, or pre-prototypes) that match beneficiary needs in an extremely short time
  5. Produce a repeatable business model that can be used to scale a winning solution


This course is team-based. Working and studying is done in teams. You will be admitted as a team. Teams must submit a proposal for entry before the course begins.  ​Teams self-organize and establish individual roles on their own. In addition to the instructors and TA, each team will be assigned a mentor (an experienced entrepreneur, service provider, consultant, or investor), a point of contact (POC) from the problem sponsor and an active duty military liaison officer to provide assistance and support.


  • Priority is given to Mines/DU Graduate students. Exceptional undergraduates can join teams.
  • Exceptions for team size and external members will be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • ​There are no remote options for this course – you must take the class in person on campus.
  • This is very intense class with a very high workload. We expect you to invest at least 10-15 hours per week.


  • Admission is by teams of 4 Mines and DU students from any school or department
  • Teams must submit an application and interview with the teaching team prior to the class start date.
  • Your entire team must attend the interview and first class to be enrolled.
  • Teams must submit a mission model canvas.
  • If you are looking to create/join a team, attend brown bag lunches/info sessions to meet other students. Additionally, this google form will help you search for a team, and the teaching team can help you fill gaps or find teammates.


  • You cannot miss the first class without prior approval
  • This is very intense class with a very high workload. If you cannot commit to 10-15 hours a week outside the classroom, this class is not for you.
  • The startup culture at times can feel brusque and impersonal, but in reality is focused and oriented to create immediate action in time- and cash-constrained environments.
  • If during the semester you find you cannot continue to commit the time, immediately notify your team members and instructor and drop the class.
  • If you expect to miss a class, please let the TA and your team members know ahead of time via email.
  • ​We expect your attention during our presentations and those of your fellow students. If you’re getting bored, tired or inattentive step outside for some air. If we see you reading email or browsing the web we will ask you to leave the class.
  • We ask that you use a name card during every session of the class.
  • ​During your classmates’ presentations you will be required to give feedback. Please bring a laptop to every class and be prepared to give your undivided attention to the team at the front of the room.


Meaningful beneficiary discovery requires the development of several pretotypes leading to a minimum viable product (MVP). Therefore, each team should have the applicable goal of the following:

  1. Deliverables:
    1. Teams building a physical product must iterate pretotypes and prepare a costed bill of materials.
    2. Teams building a web product must build the site, create demand and have beneficiaries using it.
    3. Teams building a mobile product are expected to have working code and have beneficiaries using it.
  2. You must maintain a weekly journal narrative which is an integral part of your deliverables. It’s how we measure your progress.
  3. Your team will present a weekly in-class presentation to show your progress.


This class is not about how to write a business plan. It’s not an exercise on how smart you are in a classroom, or how well you use the research library to size markets. And the end result is not a PowerPoint slide deck for a hackathon presentation or an accelerator demo day. And it is most definitely not an incubator where you come to build the “hot-idea” that you have in mind. This class combines Lean Startup theory with a ton of hands-on practice. Our goal, within the constraints of a classroom and a limited amount of time, is to give you a framework to test the business model of a startup while creating all of the pressures and demands of the real world in an early stage start up. The class is designed to give you the experience of how to work as a team and turn an idea into a solution for a real world problem facing a defense or intelligence agency. ​ You will be getting your hands dirty talking to “customers” – military and other government stakeholders and beneficiaries as you encounter the chaos and uncertainty of how a startup actually works. You’ll practice evidence-based entrepreneurship as you learn how to use a business model to brainstorm each part of a startup and get out of the classroom for beneficiary discovery to see whether anyone other than you would want/use your solution. Finally, based on the beneficiary feedback you gather, you will use agile development to rapidly iterate your concept to build/design something real people would actually buy and use. Each block will be a new adventure outside the classroom as you test each part of your business model and then share the hard earned knowledge with the rest of the class.

  • We teach the Mines version of Lean Startup Theory + hands-on practice
  • You will learn Urgency, Evidence-based entrepreneurship, Empathy Mapping, Pretotyping, MUSTs, Beneficiary Discovery, “good-enough” decision making
  • You will do so by talking to 10-15 beneficiaries a week and share your findings in class weekly



Flipped Classroom | ​Experiential Learning ​

You need to come prepared with questions or comments about the material for in-class discussion. You will be spending a significant amount of time in between each of the lectures outside the class talking to beneficiaries. Each week your team will conduct a minimum of 10 customer interviews focused on validating a specific assumption.

This class is a simulation of what startups and entrepreneurship is like in the real world: chaos, uncertainty, impossible deadlines in insufficient time, conflicting input, etc. ​ Sitting in the back of the classroom are experienced instructors and professionals who have built and/or funded world-class startups as well as seasoned military professionals with significant experience in the field.  We won’t be lecturing in the traditional sense, but commenting and critiquing on each team’s progress. While the comments may be specific for each team, the insights are almost always applicable to all teams. Pay attention. While other teams are presenting the results of their weekly experiments, the rest of the class is expected to attentively listen, engage, and react to what they see and hear. Sharing insights, experience, and contacts with each other is a key way that this unique laboratory achieves results. ​

Startups communicate in a dramatically different style from the university or large company culture you may be familiar with. At times it can feel brusque and impersonal, but in reality is focused and oriented to create immediate action in time- and cash-constrained environments. We have limited time and we push, challenge, and question you in the hope you will quickly learn. We will be direct, open, and tough just like the real world. This approach may seem harsh or abrupt, but it is all part of our wanting you to learn to challenge yourselves quickly and objectively, and to appreciate that as entrepreneurs you need to learn and evolve faster than you ever imagined possible.

This class pushes many people past their comfort zone. If you believe that the role of your instructors is to praise in public and criticize in private, you’re in the wrong class. Do not take this class. You will be receiving critiques in front of your peers weekly. The pace and the uncertainty pick up as the class proceeds. As part of the process, we also expect you to question us, challenge our point of view if you disagree, and engage in a real dialog with the teaching team.


​This class hits the ground running. It assumes you and your team have come into class having read the assigned reading, viewed the online lectures, and prepared a set of contacts to call on. ​We suggest that you consider a problem in which you are a domain expert, such as your graduate research. In all cases, you should choose something for which you have passion, enthusiasm, and hopefully some expertise. Do not select this type of project unless you are prepared to see it through. ​Given the amount of work this class entails, there is no way you can do the work while participating in multiple startups. A condition of admission to the class is that this is the only startup you are working on this quarter/semester. ​ ​Your weekly presentations and final Lessons Learned presentations will be shared and visible to others. We may be videotaping and sharing many of the class sessions.


This course is team-based and 85% of your grade will come from your team progress and final project. The grading criteria are broken down as follows:  ​

  • 15% – Individual participation in class. You will be giving feedback to your peers.
  • 30% – Out-of-the-building progress as measured by team journal write-ups and presentations each week. Team members must:
  1. Update empathy maps/business model canvas weekly
  2. Identify which team member did which portion of the work.
  3. Report on what the team did each week in detail
  4. Weekly email of team member participation
  • 25% – The team weekly “lesson learned” presentation (see weekly syllabus for weekly content requirement and format)  ​​
  • 30% – Team final presentation ​ This total is multiplied by a “peer grading multiplier” as assigned to you by your team at the end of the quarter.


Glossary of military terms


If after reading through this and the details tab ​you still have questions, or if you are interested in a particular topic and would like more information, please email Sid Saleh.


Can I have more/less than 4 students?   Can my team be made up of people other than students?

Each team must include four matriculated Mines and/or DU students.  You can have more people on your team who are or are not Mines or DU students but they will be unable to enroll in the class.  Enrollment in the class is only open to matriculated Mines or DU students. ​ ** If you are not a student but are interested in providing technical advice to a team, email Dr. Sid Saleh (shsaleh@mines.edu) letting him now which of the specific problems you are best suited to advise on, your company, position, LinkedIn profile, and contact info.

For the application, should I choose a specific problem or do I apply for all problems?

Please choose one or two problems to apply for.  As applications will be evaluated by whether the team is capable of solving the particular problem, different teams will be better suited to different problems.  This will be covered in more detail at the info sessions.

I have an idea/project that I think the military/government would be interested in.  It doesn’t fit one of the problem topics, can I still apply for this class?

Please contact Dr. Sid Saleh as soon as possible to see if it is possible to identify an organization to sponsor your project.


Do teams receive funding? ​

Each team will have $1,000 to use for travel and prototyping.

Do I have to be a US citizen to take this class? ​

No, all nationalities are welcome.

Do I have to have previous experience with the military or DOD/IC (Department of Defense/Intelligence Community)? ​

No prior DOD/IC experience is required. The class has a set of Military Liaisons and mentors to assist the teams (see the teaching team section.)

How do I find teams?

Please add yourself by filling out the team formation survey. Also, make sure to go to brown bag lunches and mixers. A spreadsheet will be available to allow you to search for team members. The teaching team will help match groups that seem like particularly good fits, but expect to form a team using the team formation spreadsheet or interested friends. ​ ​

Do I have to choose an idea that a sponsor is providing?  ​

No. You can come up with your own idea and teaching team will strive to find a DOD/IC sponsor.

What if I want to propose an idea I have to a DOD/IC organization or agency? ​ ​

Contact the teaching team and we’ll connect you to a sponsoring agency.


Who owns the intellectual property tested in the Mission Model?

If you’re working with a Mines related-technology (i.e. either research from one of the team members or University IP), you must check with the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to understand Mines ownership rights in any resulting IP.

  • You own the Intellectual Property (patents, hardware, algorithms, etc.) you brought to class with you. No one (other than Mines) has claim to anything you brought to class.
  • You all own any intellectual property developed for the class (such as code for a web-based project) developed during class. You are agreeing to open-source your class developed assets. Your DOD/IC sponsor will have access to those materials.
  • You and your team members need to disclose to each other and your DOD/IC sponsor what IP/Licensing rights any company you’ve worked at has to inventions you make at school.
  • If any or you decide to start a company based on the class, you own only what was written and completed in the class. You have no claim for work done before or after the class quarter.
  • If a subset of the team decides to start a company they do NOT “owe” anything to any other team members for work done in and during the class. All team members are free to start the same company, without permission of the others. (We would hope that a modicum of common sense and fairness would apply.)

By taking this class you have agreed to these terms with your team. You may decide to modify these terms before the class by having all team members agree in writing before the team is accepted in the class.

I feel my idea / Mission Model may become a real company and the “next killer app” and I want to own it myself.  What should I do?

This is more than likely the wrong class to take. Your slides, notes and findings will be publicly shared. Your team owns everything done in class. Discuss Intellectual Property rights with your team from the beginning. If you can’t come to agreement with the team, join another team, pick another project, or drop the class. Remember anything you do and learn in the class is public.

Will my Intellectual Property rights be protected when I discuss my ideas with the class?

  1. This is an open class. There are no non-disclosures. All your presentations and Customer Discovery and Validation notes, business model canvas, blogs and slides can, and most likely will, be made public. This class is not an incubator. At times you will learn by seeing how previous classes solved the same class of problem by looking at their slides, notes and blogs. Keep in mind that successful companies are less about the original idea and more about the learning, discovery and execution. (That’s the purpose of this class.) Therefore you must be prepared to share your ideas openly with the class. It is a forum for you to “bounce” your ideas off your peers.

I’m not comfortable sharing what I learn with others what should I do?  

Don’t take this class. This class is not an incubator. At times you will learn by seeing how previous classes solved the same class of problem by looking at their slides, notes and blogs.


What kind of support will our team have?

The teaching team consists of professors, experienced military professionals, and multiple Course Assistants.  Each team will be assigned two mentors and a military liaison. A mentor is an experienced defense/IC official, investor or consultant assigned to your team. They’ve volunteered to help with the class and your team because they love hard problems, love startups and appreciate the importance of addressing problems facing the DoD/IC. Their job is to guide you as you get out of the building and to interface effectively with your DoD/IC sponsors.  In addition, teams will have access to (modest) funding that they can use to support problem discovery and rapid prototyping efforts. Admitted teams will learn more about this resource.

How often can we/should we meet with our mentor?

Your mentor is expecting to meet with you at least every week face-to-face or by Skype. You can email them or meet with them more often if they have time.

Can I talk to a mentor not assigned to my team?

By all means, do so. All the mentors are happy to help. However they cannot support your team full time unless your mentor decides to swap places with them.

I have a busy schedule and my mentor can’t meet when I want them to. Can you do something about it?

Mentors have day jobs. Asking them to meet or reply to you ASAP is not acceptable. So plan ahead to allow for a reasonable amount of time for a reply or meeting. Be concise with your request and be respectful of their time.

I need help now.

You first stop is your TA. Email or sit down with them during the week if you have a problem. Your professors have office hours every Wednesday at 4:30-5:30pm. If you need something resolved sooner, email us.


What roles are in each team? ​

Traditionally, each team member is part of the “customer development team”. You have to figure out how to allocate the work.

What if my team becomes dysfunctional?

Prepare to work through difficult issues. If the situation continues, approach the teaching team. Do not wait until the end of the semester to raise the issue.

What if one of my teammates is not “pulling his/her weight”?

Try to resolve it within your team. If the situation continues longer than a week, please approach the teaching team. Final grades will also reflect individual participation and contribution.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

Continual feedback weekly. Substandard quality work will be immediately brought to your attention



Sid Saleh

Teaching Associate Professor, Economics & Business Associate Director, Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Martin Katz

Chief Innovation Officer, University of Denver

Werner Kuhr

Director, Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Academic Partner