Hacking for Defense
Hacking for Defense (H4D) is an education initiative that applies design thinking and the Lean Startup model to solve real and complex problems in the defense and intelligence communities. To do this, interdisciplinary student teams interview dozens of users and experts every week and constantly prototype solutions. Based at Stanford University, the H4D program is currently being tested by five schools across the U.S., including Georgia Tech and Georgetown University. James Madison University is one of those five schools and the only one exclusively offering the class to undergraduate students.
Spring 2018 Class
JMU X-Labs is currently hosting its second H4D class where 25 students from eight majors are pursuing the following solutions based on the needs of client partners from the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of State:
1. Develop a faster way to log flight records – Students are developing a mobile application for aircraft commanders, pilots, and loadmasters to record necessary information while in transit to replace the existing excessive paperwork process.
2. Track recalled items – This team needs to develop a way for equipment specialists at every military installation to track the location of every FDA-approved medical device in order to allow the U.S. Army to speedily recall devices.
3. Track passengers and carry on bags – These students are working on ways to identify and track individuals and their carry-on items in order to make the airport security screening process safer and faster for passengers.
4. Prevent human trafficking – This team has been challenged to build a way for law enforcement agencies (in nations where forced labor takes place) to expose bad recruitment practices, illegal contracts, and front companies in order to increase scrutiny of companies that may hire forced labor.
Each class is tasked with building a website to publish their research and facilitate student research networks across different institutions.
Undergraduate Class Founder
In March 2016, intelligence analysis major Jack O’Neill heard about Hacking for Defense at a talk given by serial-entrepreneur Steve Blank at Stanford University. After the talk, Jack spoke with Mr. Blank and followed up with him to attend the H4D® Educators & Sponsors Course with JMU X-Labs faculty. Six months later, the JMU team traveled to Stanford University for in-depth training on the H4D program with its focus on project management, innovation, and solving real world issues.
In the spring of 2017, Jack’s team launched the first undergraduate H4D program in the nation at JMU X-Labs. The project has received nationwide media attention, and the class has garnered significant praise for the work accomplished by its undergraduate students. To date, H4D faculty and students have come from departments as wide-ranging as biology, business, engineering, nursing, and writing studies. Subsequently, the success of this pilot course led to all of our other “Hacking for” courses.
Hacking for Defense
Lakeview Hall, 1150
Are you aware of a technology that could transform your industry but you don’t have time to explore it? Does your organization have long–range design problems that you don’t have the resources to solve yourself? What if you could hire graduates who are ready to start working on your top needs from Day One?
JMU X-Labs collaborates with distinguished government and industry organizations that give interdisciplinary student teams real-world experience. We invite industry professionals who are eager to plug into our expanding programs to submit problems to be included in our curriculum and apply to work directly with these exceptional students and faculty.