EBGN 544/444  | CSCI 498 | MNGN 598/498

Innovate X tackles a wide range of problems: emergency management, social, humanitarian, public service, homeland security, and others. 



that Matter

Make a difference

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

In a crisis, problems command our focus and compel us to collaborate. Absent urgency, problems fester and disrupt people’s lives in subtle and not so subtle ways. Students enroll in Innovate X to investigate problems and attempt pragmatic solutions with speed. They collaborate with those who experience the problems, those who can impact the problems, and a host of experienced mentors and advisors. We use an entrepreneurial mindset, efficient processes, and collaborative creativity to make a difference.

Innovate X is an interdisciplinary course offered by the Colorado School of Mines in collaboration with problem sponsors and other higher education institutions. We’ll help match you with teammates. All disciplines are welcome (graduates and exceptional undergraduates).  Innovate X satisfies the entrepreneurship pillar requirement for the Grand Challenges Scholars Program.

  • Apply Your Engineering Knowledge, Skills, and Creativity to Challenging Problems.
  • Discover Your Untapped Potential.
  • Practice Using an Entrepreneurial Mindset.
  • Translate Research into Practical Applications.
  • Expand your Professional Network. 
  • Work Closely with Valued Mentors and Advisors.

Student teams will:

  • Address important wicked problems such as disaster mitigation or air quality
  • Apply entrepreneurial principles – problem validation and beneficiary discovery
  • Develop social, environmental and economic business models to sustain solutions
  • Collaborate with agencies such as FEMA and government agencies (local and global) to uncover and validate beneficiary needs
  • Build iterative pretotypes (pre-prototypes) to test your understanding of the problem and to test your solution-problem fit
  • Implement design and engineering skills via interdisciplinary teams to develop innovations
  • Practice applying the latest research in the real world – AI, data analytics, IoT, advanced material, robotics, etc.


Dr. Sid Saleh

Economics & Business Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Dr. Sebnem Duzgun

Computer Science & Mining

Dr. CJ McClelland

Engineering, Design & Society

Watch these videos that exhibit some of the projects our students are tackling in our Innov8x classes, including the winners from our EMx Challenge from Spring 2020. 

General Course Information

Course Title: Innovate X

EBGN 598: Mines Engineering & Technology Management Masters elective.

EBGN 498: Mines Economics & Business undergraduate elective.

CSCI 498: Mines Computer Science undergraduate elective.

MNGN 598/498: Mines Mining graduate or undergraduate elective.

Instructors: Dr. Sid Saleh, Dr. Sebnem Duzgun, Dr. CJ McClelland

Teaching Assistants: Torin Johnson & Sophia Becker

Class Details: Spring 2021.  Jan 12 – May 5, 2021. Mondays and Wednesdays. 3:30 PM – 4:45 PM US Mountain time with asynchronous options and office hours appropriate for different time zones.

Enroll: Enrollment is open now. Please register through Mines Trail Head. REGISTER HERE

Spring 2021 Problems

Challenges and problems are added as we receive them.

Gimme Shelter: The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VIII needs a better way to provide temporary housing to disaster survivors in order to be more responsive, fast, and adaptive to changing conditions.

Putting FEMA Out of Business:  The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VIII needs to properly incentivize and reward states, tribes, territories and local governments, as well as certain non-profits, to take proactive steps to protect assets through insurance or other means in order to lower the reliance on federal funds as the first recourse for disaster recovery.

What’s the Damage? The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VIII Recovery needs a means by which they can more accurately assess damage wrought by disasters and integrate this information into existing FEMA systems so that federal disaster declaration processes and recovery efforts take place much more quickly in affected areas.

(Not So) Risky Business: The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VIII Branch Directors/Group Supervisors need a way to use publicly available information to determine the risk associated with a state request for a grant under the Public Assistance Program in order to more effectively move applications through the approval process and prioritize valuable Resource Center Employee time.

CBRN Incidents and At-Risk Populations: The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region I seeks to analyze and assess capability gaps and future requirements to meet the needs of at-risk populations in large-scale incidents involving Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) hazardous materials. This may include ensuring equitable response to all victims, evaluating how emerging technologies may impact the decontamination of equipment used by victims, and supporting first-responders psychologically.

Golden Startup Community Brand & Communications: The City of Golden Colorado and local startup community partners want to improve access to resources that new and existing early stage startups need. This includes providing information about entities with whom startup founders may partner (suppliers, customers, etc.)  The City needs to identify the type of information, and frequency/channel of communication in order for the City to effectively support early stage companies.

Course Advisors & Mentors
  • Dr. Werner Kuhr, Director, McNeil Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Mines
  • Lee dePalo, Regional Administrator, FEMA Region VIII
  • Daniel Green, Resilience Analyst, FEMA Region VIII
  • Kaitlin Marshall, Public Assistance Program Analyst, FEMA Region VIII
  • Conor McClintock, Regional Innovation Officer, FEMA Region VIII
  • Stefanie Tompkins, Vice President, Research and Technology Transfer, Mines
  • Will Vaughan, Director, Technology Transfer, Mines
  • Dr. Mark Neal, Associate Professor & Department Chair, Humanities and Social Sciences, Khalifa University
  • Sara Mneimne, Senior Student Affairs Officer, Khalifa University
  • Rodney Marcy, Senior Executive, Consultant and Serial Entrepreneur
  • Bill Quinn, Director of Customer Experience and IoT Solutions and Center of Excellence Leader, Tata Consultancy Services
  • Michael Gallup, Independent Consultant and Investor
  • Todd McLean, President, BOK Financial Insurance
  • Dr. Mik Bertolli, Chief Science Officer, Avrio Analytics
  • Addy Bateman, Program Associate, Uncharted
Info Sessions

To be announced for next semester.

Dates and Enrollment
  • Enroll now – Please visit Mines Trail Head to enroll. 
  • Acceptances – Ongoing
  • Team Formation – Ongoing
  • First Day of Class – Monday, Aug. 24, 2020
Course Details


Innovate X is designed to provide students with the opportunity to gain real work experience, expand their professional network, and to do something that has a real impact on a local community. While earning course credit, students collaborate with organizations that are motivated to innovate. These include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the UAE Ministry of Possibilities and others. 

This course provides the skills in developing rapid innovation, by providing a platform to develop pretotypes that address local needs in weeks. Using an entrepreneurial mind-set, students:

  1. Investigate complex local 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 the ultimate value to be created
  4. Create and deliver pretotypes, or pre-prototype, that match beneficiary needs in an extremely short time
  5. Produce a social, environmental and economic business model that can be used to scale a winning solution.

This is a team-based course. In addition to the instructors and TA, each team will interact with a problem sponsor and a number of expert mentors. This is an exciting fast-paced course. We expect you to invest roughly 10-12 hours per week.

  • If you are looking to create/join a team, attend an information session online to meet other students and fill this form. The the teaching team can help you find teammates.


    List of Open-Source Data Sites for Information about COVID-19 and What Those Sites Offer

    • Good Judgement Super Forecasters: Created a dashboard that predicts the likely answers, in terms of percentages, to general questions about COVID-19 to support the planning process to limit the spread of the virus. Questions include “How many total cases of COVID-19 will be reported/estimated by (date)?” and “How many total deaths will be reported in the United States by (date)?” https://goodjudgment.io/covid/dashboard/

    • Geospark Analytics: This dashboard gives each county in the United States a risk rating to determine (a) the counties that are most at risk for spread of the virus but also (b) counties that may face difficulty handling a surge in their health care system. Each county is rated 1-10 with 10 being the most at-risk to face challenges managing the spread of the virus. The model accounts for factors such as total population, population density, population over 60, availability of ICU beds, stresses on the hospital and ICU system of each county, and confirmed cases of COVID-19. https://fema.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/98bc152b0a8d4f43886 ee63e5578987e

    • National Medical Capabilities: Collects data from hospitals that self-report on their medical device and PPE needs, staff capabilities, and hospital capacity and then makes that data public. https://hospitaloutreachanddata.bubbleapps.io/ • IHME: Provides data projection and an array of visuals to answer questions pertaining to future spread and impacts of COVID-19. Data projections include: hospital resource use, deaths per day, and total deaths. https://covid19.healthdata.org/projections

    • Cuebiq: Provides data on mobility trends in a variety of contexts. For example, Cuebiq provided detailed analysis of migratory patterns following Hurricane Harvey. In terms of COVID-19, Cuebiq has made the data open source and is looking at how the outbreak of the disease is impacting people’s mobility. Specifically, Cuebiq is looking at how COVID19 has impacted store visitation patterns to help businesses plan for future impacts. However, Cuebiq’s data can also be used to look at broader socio-economic issues as exemplified by how their data was used in a NY Times article about how the ability to social distance is determined by socio-economic standing. https://www.cuebiq.com/visitation-insights-covid19/ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/03/us/coronavirus-stay-home-rich-poor.html

    Example Websites for Modeling Data:

    • Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance by Tomas Pueyo https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-the-hammer-and-the-dance-be9337092b56

    • COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports. https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/

    • HELENA https://helena.org/projects/covid-19-response

    • Information is beautiful https://informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/covid-19- coronavirus-infographic-datapack/

    • Data.gov https://www.data.gov/

    • Open FEMA. https://www.fema.gov/openfema



    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.


    Are you aware of a community problem you would like to solve in this course with a team of students?

    Bring it to class! As a student, you have a unique outlook on problems that your professor or FEMA advisors may not be aware of in our communities. This class was created to help students become agents of change and to make a difference in someone’s life. ​

    ** 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.

    Can I support someone else’s problem?

    Yes. Please choose one or two problems to bring to class or our information session. You can also email the problem and any associates to Dr. Sid Saleh (shsaleh@mines.edu).

    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 emergency management? ​

    No prior emergency management experience is required. The class has a set of FEMA advisors and Mines 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 virtual information sessions. 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 an industry sponsor.

    What if I want to propose an idea I have to an emergency management organization or agency? ​ ​

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



    What kind of support will our team have?

    The teaching team consists of the lead professor, other faculty, one or more experienced FEMA agents, and industry mentors. A mentor is an experienced investor, consultant or faculty assigned to your team. They’ve volunteered to help with the class and your team because they love hard problems facing emergency management. Their job is to guide you as you get out of the building and to interface effectively with your beneficiaries.

    How often can we/should we meet with our sponsors and mentors?

    Your mentors are expecting to meet with you at least every week face-to-face or via online. 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?

    We do not assign mentors to teams. No one mentor has enough knowledge or expertise to address all your needs over time. Besides, you need multiple perspectives on any issue. At Mines, we implement collaborative mentoring. This means you will be mentored by multiple experts.

    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 teammates. Otherwise, email your instructors.


    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

    2020 Semester

    The impact of natural and human-made disasters impacts critical infrastructure, where losses cascade. Imagine a flood, extreme weather, forest fire, or school shooting. These disasters emerge from different mobility patterns in urban and rural transport infrastructure. Moreover, disasters induce damages to transport infrastructure. Both the physical damages and behavioral changes cause disruption in the transport infrastructure, which reduces the early intervention and deployment of relief efforts. How could we predict human behavior and physical damages during these disasters so that we can predict the resilience of the transport infrastructure? What are the ways of using AI and big mobility data to enhance the resilience of the transport infrastructure?

    Harnessing and Delivering Power in the Face of All Situations: State Emergency Support Function (ESF) #12 needs a way to deliver emergency power requiring minimal sustainment to isolated communities in order to reduce risk to locals until emergency management teams can reach them.

    Cyber Incidents May Require Emergency Management: Emergency managers at all levels of government and cyber incident responders need an incident command system that facilitates their communication.

    “War Gaming” Against Community Crises: The National Preparedness Division needs a safe and interactive way to run large-scale emergency simulations in order to improve crisis management skills and validate the response capabilities of the various communities.

    Designing the Next Generation of Training: The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) Training and Exercise Program Team needs a way to deliver their G-Courses virtually in order to ensure that they can be delivered consistently to all regions of Colorado.

    Where to Go When Your Home is On Fire: Responding American Red Cross teams and Emergency Managers need a way to safely accommodate evacuated individuals when neighboring towns and standard practices are not an option in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and save people from natural disasters.

    Agreeing on How to Calm the Flames: The Montana Forest Action Advisory Council needs options on how to safely manage Montana forest fires in order to have all involved parties’ needs met, and to avoid future devastation from possible fires.

    2019 Semester

    Cultivating Talent: The 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.

    SCIF in a Box: The US Air Force 21st Space Wing unit security officers need to efficiently secure large form factor system hardware in a forward- deployed environment in order to reduce limited security resources.

    Approving Tactics for Rapidly Delivered Space Systems: The US Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) unit-level weapons and tactics specialists need to revise and approve tactics in pace with frequent delivery of space capabilities in order to address emerging threats and objectives with the up-to-date guidance.

    Identification of Inspection Topics: US Air Force Inspection Agency seeks analytic tools and techniques for the Analysis Division to routinely query research sources in order to identify topics of interest for pre-emptive investigation.

    Modern Government Innovation Practices: US Air Force Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP) 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.

    2018 Semester

    Autonomy for First-Responders: The 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.

    Problems to Capabilities: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) 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.

    Identifying Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Events: The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking seeks open source ways for identifying transactions related to illegal wildlife products to increase situational awareness and reduce criminal activity.

    Predictive Analysis for Readiness and Effectiveness: The US Air Force Inspection Agency seeks 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.


    Fall 2019  First Hacking for Defense (H4D) course ran as EBGN 563 Management of Technology in the Engineering and Technology Management Master program of Economics and Business. Four teams took on four problems. Two teams formed two startups: HazNet, LLC and Canopy Intelligence, LLC.

    Spring 2019  Innovate Defense | H4D ran as pilot course EBGN 598 as an elective of the Engineering and Technology Management Master program. Five teams took on five problems. Two teams formed two startups: Au’en (Golden) Analytics, LLC and Quarantainer. A third team deployed their solution within the Colorado National Guard’s mobile app.

    Fall 2020  Innovate EMx (Emergency Management Excellence) ran as the nation’s first Hacking for Homeland Security (H4HS) pilot course EBGN 598 – a collaborative effort led by FEMA Region VIII leadership, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, Common Mission Project, BMNT and the McNeil Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Mines. Six teams tackled 8 problems. Stay tuned for outcomes.

    Spring 2021 To provide a rich and unique learning experience to students, Innovate X expands to accept a wider range of problems: emergency management, social, humanitarian, public service, homeland security, and others. Teams that gain traction in Innovate X can continue their work in Innovate X Studio – a summer residency program.