Stanford H4D students tour Beale, gain valuable insight

By Airman 1st Class Dana M. Tourtellotte

The 9th Intelligence Squadron hosted a four-person team from Stanford University’s Hacking 4 Defense class, Apr. 20, 2018.

The non-profit organization, H4D’s purpose is to generate problem-solving cooperation between academia and the Department of Defense. This specific team’s goal is to help the Air Force through the continuous improvement processes associated with the conversion of traditional film for use on a digital platform associated with the aerial imagery process, exploitation and dissemination from the Optical Bar Camera that flies on the U-2 aircraft.

As the partnership began, the initial problem statement was framed around a computer vision solution, but Chief Master Sgt. Ian Eishen, 9th Intelligence Squadron superintendent, said the team may find something else that will be a better fit. 

“Partnering with academia exposes our Airmen to an entirely different mindset, thought process and network to couple with what they are already developing on an Air Force base,” Eishen said. “This adds a new set of tools to their toolbox for attacking future problem sets.”

Eishen also stressed the importance of bringing the Stanford students to the actual work environment for a firsthand look at the equipment and processes involved. Many of the students have no military background or knowledge base, so it is vital they understand the Airmen’s actions within processes in an effort to streamline operations.

During their visit, the students were shown the measures 9th Reconnaissance Wing pilots must take to execute a successful flight, they visited the Film Processing Center and viewed the end products from the unit’s geospatial analysts.

“Just seeing the whole process from one end to another helps us to see where our initial problem statement fits in the overall system, and more importantly, if this is the most important problem right now that we need to solve,” said Joseph Lee, Stanford H4D student. 

“This tour has really allowed us to understand how the process here works from the perspective of those who work on this mission,” said Minjia Zhong, Stanford H4D student. “It’s really allowed me to empathize with the struggles that these people here are facing day to day.” 

The tour of Beale was one piece of the constant interaction between Beale Airmen and the H4D students. The program is scheduled to conclude in June with the presentation of proposed avenues for the mission improvement process.