9 IS “hacks” into defense challenges with Stanford

By Senior Airman Ashley L. Gardner

Airmen from the 9th Intelligence Squadron are working with Stanford University students to gather ideas on how to make the Optical Bar Camera mission more effective.

Hacking for Defense, a non-profit organization working to generate problem solving cooperation between academia industry and Department of Defense, introduced a problem-solving methodology. Working to solve national defense challenges, H4D pairs Stanford students with partners in the DOD or adjacent industries to build a relationship between two entities in hopes of producing innovative technological solutions to defense issues.

H4D students separate into groups of four and choose a problem set that interests them most. This requires a hands-on approach and close engagement with DOD and other government agencies. 

The class seeks to apply Silicon Valley entrepreneurship methods in military-industrial contexts. Students create what is similar to a “lean startup”, which emphasizes a process of need-finding and problem-solving.

This process helps individuals with the problem receive a newer, fresher idea on something they may have never thought of before, while also revealing that students are capable of contributing to solutions to real-world problems.

“We work with wet film. “This is an excellent opportunity to couple one of the oldest sensors in the DoDs inventory with the latest advances in technology,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ian Eishen, 9th IS superintendent. “Our thoughts are that computer vision may provide a solution, but the team may find something that would be a better fit.”

The students learn entrepreneurship while they are engaged in a national public service, which is one of many opportunities to make the world safer by teaming with the DOD and other government agencies.

“My best friend joined the Marines,” said Austin Bushree, Stanford student. ”I decided to go to college, and it was interesting to see the divergence in paths. I’ve always admired his dedication to service and to the country, so I really respect him for all that he is doing. I look at what he is out there doing and I don’t see how I would owe any less to my country and the people who live in it. We have completely different skillsets, but I saw this as a way to commit myself to a legitimate problem doing something bigger than myself.”

This unique collaborative program began in April 2018 and will last approximately 3 months. Stanford students will visit Beale Air Force Base for an up-close look at equipment and processes involved with the problem solving requirements. In return, Beale Airmen will have the opportunity to engage on the university campus as the subject matter experts during the problem solving process.