Hacking 4 Defense (H4D)
Solve Real Problems. Make a Huge Difference.
Apply Your Knowledge, Skills and Creativity to Challenging Problems. Discover Your Untapped Potential.
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.
EBGN 566 Technology Entrepreneurship: Hacking for Defense (a Mines Engineering & Technology Management program elective)
BUS 4700-02, CRN: 5373 Hacking for Defense (a University of Denver course)
Course Advisors: Chris Conley, Martin Katz, Stefanie Tompkins
Class Details: Spring 2019. January 8 – May 2. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 PM – 6:45 PM. Room TBD.
Application: Admission is by teams of 4 students (Mines and DU students) from any school or department. Limited enrollment by application.
- Team Formation Mixer #2 Friday, November 30: 5:00-6:30 pm, at Mines Arthur Lakes Library Innovation Station
- 1st Brown Bag Lunch Wednesday October 24: 12:00-1:00 pm, at Mines Arthur Lakes Library Innovation Station
- DU Course Kickoff Event Thursday, November 7: 12:00-1:00 pm, at AAC 340 (The Loft)
- Mines Course Kickoff Event Thursday, November 8: 9:00-11:00 am, at Mines Student Recreation Center McNeil Room
- 2nd Brown Bag Lunch Wednesday, November 14: 12:00-1:00 pm, at Mines Arthur Lakes Library Innovation Station
- Team Formation Mixer #1 (Updated date/time) Monday November 19: 5:00-6:30 pm, at Mines Arthur Lakes Library Innovation Station
- Application Deadline – Tuesday, December 18, 2018,11:59 pm
- Interview Notifications – Friday, December 21, 2018
- Interviews – Tuesday, January 8, 2019
- Acceptances – Wednesday, January 9, 2019
- First Day of Class – Thursday, January 10, 2019
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:
- Solve extremely complex real-world problems
- Rapidly iterate technology solutions while searching for solution-problem fit
- Understand all relevant stakeholders’ needs, deployment issues, costs, resources, and ultimate mission value
- Deliver minimum viable products (pretotypes, or pre-prototypes) that match beneficiary needs in an extremely short time
- Produce a repeatable business model that can be used to scale a winning solution
- 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.
Attendance & Participation
- 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:
- Teams building a physical product must iterate pretotypes and prepare a costed bill of materials.
- Teams building a web product must build the site, create demand and have beneficiaries using it.
- Teams building a mobile product are expected to have working code and have beneficiaries using it.
- You must maintain a weekly journal narrative which is an integral part of your deliverables. It’s how we measure your progress.
- Your team will present a weekly in-class presentation to show your progress.
Intro to Lean Launchpad
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
Lean Launchpad Resources
- All Mines course material is here
- Helpful Online Lectures: https://www.udacity.com/course/how-to-build-a-startup–ep245
- Steve Blank’s Tools & Blogs for Entrepreneurs: http://steveblank.com/tools-and-blogs-for-entrepreneurs/
How You’ll Learn
Flipped Classroom | Experiential Learning
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:
- Update empathy maps/business model canvas weekly
- Identify which team member did which portion of the work.
- Report on what the team did each week in detail
- 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.
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 Sid Saleh know of your interest. Need to find team members? Fill out the team formation document.
Problems for 2018:
- Industry Best Practices for Accurate Mapping in any Environment
- Identifying Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Events
- Autonomy for First-Responders
- Optimizing Warehouse Operations
- Problems to Capabilities
- Predictive Analysis for Readiness and Effectiveness
Handheld detectors are the first line of defense for dismounted Soldiers to combat landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and other concealed explosive hazard threats. While the current handheld detectors produce alerts, they cannot produce more granular information that gives the operator a clear picture of an item in the ground, such as shape, size, or orientation, before a decision has to be made if the object is a threat. Real-time position information of the detector search head combined with the data output of the detector can enable the operator and detector algorithms to better visualize the signals within the area searched. In addition to improving detection algorithms and operator decision making, real-time position information is also critical to track areas that have been searched for safe passage and mark suspect object locations. Dismounted soldier missions often dictate a fast operational tempo that cannot depend on ancillary equipment such as global positioning systems (GPS) with fixed base stations, external fixed cameras, and other more cumbersome solutions for tracking accurate position. For this reason, the Army Research Lab (ARL) would like to examine what commercial technology exists for position tracking systems in order to enable better situation awareness and feed the development of improved detection algorithms.
Researchers from the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate need to understand commercially available position tracking systems in order to determine which technologies are suitable for deployment on handheld detectors.
All hardware must be restricted to the handheld detector or operator
Relative position data must be accurate to within 2cm and relative to the ground being searched
Ground being searched can vary from flat, to undulating terrain
Position data is required for day, night, indoor, and outdoor operations
Potential solutions investigated so far include magnetometer (although prone to interference from active detector), stereo-vision and inertial measurement unit modules (although prone to drift and limited in low-light conditions), differential GPS (requires ancillary equipment so limited applications)
In the past decade, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), “wildlife trafficking – the poaching or other taking of protected or managed species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their related parts and products – has escalated into an international crisis”. As written in the 2018 END Wildlife Trafficking Report, “wildlife trafficking remains a serious transnational crime that threatens global security, economic prosperity, the rule of law, long-standing conservation efforts, and human health.” Recent Executive Order 13773 calls for a comprehensive and decisive approach to dismantle organized crime syndicates, and specifically recognizes the connection between wildlife trafficking and transnational organized criminal networks. The Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking (Task Force), co-chaired by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Attorney General, brings together 17 federal departments and agencies to implement the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking (the “National Strategy”).
One of the ways the Task Force addresses the National Strategy is tracking the finances associated with illegal wildlife trafficking, and specifically, those transactions that occur over the Internet. However, because these transactions often occur between actors from various countries, each country’s regulations on online banking and open source transactions are different. The Task Force needs assistance in understanding and identifying what transactions are illegal. Once the Task Force can identify an illegal transaction, that transaction can serve as an indicator for the likelihood of a larger illegal event. These indicators can not only increase situational awareness about nefarious activities or actions but also inform action taken by law enforcement agencies.
Provide the Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking open source ways for identifying transactions related to illegal wildlife products to increase situational awareness and reduce criminal activity.
In post-explosion and weapons incident situations, California National Guard First-Responders provide critical information of environmental conditions to the medial, communications, and logistics teams within the Guard. While on the ground at the sites of the incidents, first responders provide valuable observations and reconnaissance on hazardous conditions. Their reconnaissance capabilities, however, are limited due to the current process of obtaining data and monitoring environmental conditions after hazardous events. This process is currently “man- portable”, meaning that a first responder or operator must be on the ground in often-hazardous conditions taking the observations in-person.
The current alternatives for collecting information are unmanned ground and air vehicles. However, the ground vehicles take double the time of human operation and lack strong autonomous capability, while unmanned airborne vehicles are expensive (~$100,000) and do not take accurate atmospheric samples. Internal sharing of data, rather than external, could circumvent the policy restrictions related to autonomous system usage. Ultimately, removing responders from the immediate dangers of initial site inspection would greatly reduce their personal risk.
California National Guard First-Responders need an alternative means to gather environment reconnaissance in order to reduce physical risk and increase the safety of operators.
Difficulty in implementation due to policy oversight of autonomous systems
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is a combat support agency that provides the military services with millions of items from nine different supply chains. In order to provide this support, DLA utilizes multiple distribution centers to ensure the warfighter has the right part in hand when that part is needed. These distribution centers are responsible for the receipt, stowing, picking, and shipping of supplies in a timely manner to military customers. Optimizing operations at these distribution centers can provide much-needed supplies to customers more rapidly. However, current warehouse operations lack sufficient data to validate if current processes are optimal or identify where changes need to occur. The current system housing data is fragmented and not easily accessible. Limited data capture from equipment operation severely restricts data-driven decision-making on the warehouse floor and within the warehouse management systems. Increased visibility into operations through data collected from equipment would enable supervisors to make better decisions and enable warehouse systems to automatically increase efficiency.
DLA warehouse supervisors lack sufficient data to identify and validate improvements in warehouse operations.
Replacing DLA warehouse equipment with state-of-the-art equipment is not economically or operationally feasible.
DLA is upgrading to a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) warehouse management system with live data viewing.
Valuable equipment for tracking includes cranes, reusable bins, pallet shuttles, and picking carts.
The latest equipment in industry makes use of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, robotics, and advanced automation to drive better decision making.
The Operational Technology Division (OTD) directly provides technical support to investigators, such as special agents or supervisory special agents; intelligence analysts; or other technical staff. OTD has many capabilities that are difficult to describe because understanding the capabilities may require specialized technical knowledge. In addition, capabilities change over time and may be heavily dependent on many variables, or may depend on sensitive information which is not widely disseminated. Investigators are generally aware of OTD’s capabilities by three avenues: word-of-mouth, an internal website which acts as a directory listing for who to call for certain categories of problems, or other technical websites which are not exhaustive and may not be easy to use. Likewise, OTD is generally aware of the current customer needs from knowledge of previous requests for technical support as well as from general conversations with customers. There is a gap in knowledge on both sides with regard to the most effective support OTD can provide. For example, requests for support are often for specific technical capabilities, which are directly requested to specific units that manage the respective capabilities. OTD has found that the request may be over-specified, and OTD may not be able to determine if there is a different, better suited, capability that addresses the underlying investigatory challenges that motivated the request for technical assistance. Also, OTD is unlikely to receive requests for capabilities that it does not it have, and this impedes strategic planning for development of new capabilities.
The Operational Technology Division needs to enhance communication among its internal components and those requesting its support in order to ensure appropriate matching of problems to capabilities.
Assessment of Air Force operating capabilities is the responsibility of Commanders through readiness reporting as well as via independent inspectors who perform evaluations on the adequacy and sufficiency of the resources available to organizations to perform their assigned missions. Inspection results may not reflect true readiness and effectiveness as organizations often divert resources to focus on “passing” the inspection.
The Analysis Division within the Air Force Inspection Agency is interested in exploring how individuals can leverage existing data sources in order to get a more robust picture of a unit’s organizational readiness and mission effectiveness. This would result in better analyzed data, allowing Commanders to anticipate changes that degrade their organizations and inspectors to tailor inspection resources to address the most significant mission risks.
Provide analytic tools and techniques for the Analysis Division to leverage existing data sources in order to predict a unit’s organizational readiness and mission effectiveness.
Establishing a common definition of readiness and mission effectiveness
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 at email@example.com.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 (email@example.com) 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?
NO. 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
Teaching Associate Professor, Economics & Business Associate Director, Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel
Chief Innovation Officer, University of Denver
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation