EBGN 544/444  | EDNS 498 | DSCI 598 | SPRS 598

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 Innov8X 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 real difference.

Innov8X is open to graduate and undergraduate students from any major.

Problem Spaces:

  • Sustainable Materials
  • Sustainable Construction
  • Optimization in the Airforce
  • Data collection and analysis in Industry and Government
  • Energy Transition
  • Health and well-being
  • Disaster Mitigation

Past students have consistently reported the following benefits from the course:

  • Internships and Jobs
  • Opportunity to work on interesting, open-ended problems
  • Solve problems with real societal, environmental, and humanitarian impacts
  • Work with and meet incredible people
  • Gain skills in iterative pretotypes (pre-prototypes) to test solutions, building your professional portfolio
  • Apply design and engineering skills in interdisciplinary teams
  •  Mentor support: interact with alumni and industry experts on a weekly basis


Dr. Sid Saleh

Economics & Business Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Dr. Sebnem Duzgun

Computer Science & Mining

Dr. Mark Orrs

Engineering, Design & Society

Torin Johnson

Entrepreneurship & Innovation

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: Innov8x

DSCI 598: Data Analytics graduate elective.

EBGN 544/444: Economics & Business elective.

EDNS 498: Engineering, Design and Society elective.

SPRS 598: Space Resources graduate elective.

Advanced Manufacturing Masters Program: Counts as an advisor-approved credit.

Humanitarian Engineering: Innov8x is an approved Humanitarian Engineering course.

 *Note: Credit for Innov8x is at the discretion of the issuing department.

Instructors: Dr. Sid Saleh, Dr. Sebnem Duzgun, and Torin Johnson

Class Details: Fall 2022:  August 22 – December 7, 2022. Tuesdays and Thursdays. 6:00 PM – 7:15 PM US Mountain time. Alternative meeting times are available to accommodate those with conflicting athletic schedules and in different time zones. Office hours cover different time zones as well.

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

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
Fall 2022 Problems

Challenges and problems are added as we receive them.

Homeland Security Preparedness Assessment Report Creation: The Colorado Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Office works hard to create detailed and accurate preparedness assessment reports for every county in Colorado. However, there is so much data it takes a long time to get from many different hands. Beyond that, the information needs to be compiled into an easy to digest report for each county to read, where many different individuals work on different sections and need to stitch versions together. To top it off, the report is long, and currently in the form of a document, making it difficult for individuals to search for the information they find most important. This is largely a data problem. Data collection, data processing, data querying, and much more. Are you up for the challenge?

Buckley Airforce Plane Maintenance:  The Buckley Airforce base serves as a pilot launch and taining facility, and plays a vital role in the Airforce. However, it also has the oldest running planes in the Airforce, and one of the best maintenance crews working around the clock to keep everything in a safe condition. The problem with airplanes needed regular maintenance is that things break on their own accord, so not everything can be put into the maintenance plan. This leads to efficiency issues and maintenance backlog. Is there a was to optimize the process? Or maybe that’s not the first problem that needs solved to keep this planes in the air for years to come.

Altra Shoe Innovation: Altra shoes (a VF brand) is looking to disrupt the running shoe industry. Currently, running shoes use specialized foam for different levels of shock absorption and compression while running. Over time, shoe companies have perfected this foam and continue working towards micro-increments in reducing weight and increasing longevity. Altra believes there could be an alternative material which would blow foam out of the market. What’s more, there might even be a sustainable and longer lasting material that could fit the bill, so less shoe materials are create waste. Are you up for the challenge of investigating the need and finding this innovation?

Community First: We’re excited to once again be working with the Community First Foundation, which connects ideas, people and nonprofits so that all Jeffco communities have the opportunity to thrive. Last semester, they submitted a messy problem on taking-in needs from those reaching out and matching them with the right solutions. This semester, they’re looking to expand on ways to help the community continue to thrive through further optimizing the experience of those they assist. More details to come soon!

Info Sessions

There are currently no info sessions, however, there will be many small events related to Innov8x before and during the semester. Please look on the Daily Blast for more info on these, and email shsaleh@mines.edu for additional course information.

Dates and Enrollment
  • Enroll now – Please visit Mines Trail Head to enroll. 
  • Acceptances – Ongoing
  • Team Formation – Ongoing
  • Innov8x Scholarship Application Deadline – August 26th, 2022
  • First Day of Class – Tuesday, Aug. 23rd, 2022
Course Details


Innov8x 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. In other words, students will gain real skills by working with real sponsors to solve real problems.

This course provides the skills in problem investigation, as well asrapid innovation, by providing a platform to interview beneficiaries and 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, a number of expert mentors, and many beneficiaries related to their problem. 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.

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 Dr. 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

Spring 2022

This semster consisted of many great problems ranging from space debris to aiding the efforts at Community First Foundation!

Community First Foundation: Connecting those who reach out to the right resources through their online portal, based around an informational form solution.

Jefferson County Cyber Security: Helping Jefferson County workers with cyber security awareness and education to avoid phishing attacks, using surveys and data analysis to identify who, what, and where the greatest vulnerabilities were.

Navajo Water: Understanding the New Mexico Navajo Alamo Tribe and their situation regarding clean water, as well as how to better establish relationships with members of the Tribe for future conversations and humanitarian solutions.

Methane Emmisions Detection: Looking for ways to increase the incentives and technologies for assisting in methane leak detection on gas pipelines in an effort to reduce such leaks.

Golden Software: Helping a local Golden Company to better establish their presence among students and faculty on campus, through direct engagement techniques and events after understanding the specific student needs and what Golden Software needed to update about their own products and services.

Austere: Remediating oil spills through the complete separation of oil and soil, among other materials.

Clean Orbit: Helping to remove space debris through advocacy, education, and policy.

Reflex Aerospace: Re-inventing the satellite with subscription based models for keeping the newest hardware in the sky.

Luna Power: Bringing Power to the Moon through DC to DC converters to assist in living and mining on the moon.

Space Excavation: Creating new techniques and technical solutions to reduce waste in sand based excavations, based around technology capable of removing moon regolith.

Fall 2021
  • Sustainable Traffic: How can we reduce congestion and traffic’s contribution to pollution and air quality while providing viable options for commuters and industry?
  • Outdoor Health and Wellness: A range of interesting problems such as “why do current wearable technologies (e.g. Watches, Fitbits, etc.) fail to deliver on the promise of getting us to exercise more and live healthy lives?
  • Virtual Experiences: For those who relish virtual experiences for fun or work, what issues do they face and how can we enrich their experiences?
  • Alternative Housing Costruction Material: This is driven by the recent supply-chain disruptions coupled with the need to source sustainable/reusable constraction material. Also, we explore how diversifying away from traditional material such as lumber and steel affect regulatory oversight.
  • Consumer Housing Experiences: Consumers often face a variety of complex objective (e.g. financial) and subjective (e.g. style, design, color, etc.) choices when making housing decisions. The challenge is to help consumers navigate those decisions for satisfactory outcomes.


Spring 2021

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.

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.