October 18, 2017  

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Southern Miss to Offer Course Involving National Security Issues

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University of Southern Mississippi students will have an opportunity to study issues and create solutions facing the country’s national security as part of a Hacking for Defense (H4D) course being offered for the first time during the Summer 2017 semester.

The new course is administered through the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies for undergraduate and graduate students.

H4D gives students hands-on experience in understanding and working with the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Intelligence Community (IC) on actual problems they currently confront. Students learn how to innovate at speed and how to deploy solutions using lean methods to solve national security problems.

“We are excited about the launch of this course as it reflects another example of how the University of Southern Mississippi is placing more emphasis on fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Chase Kasper, Assistant Vice President for Research, Technology Transfer, and Corporate Relations. "We are committed to providing opportunities for transformative engagement for our students to help create solutions for stakeholders’ real-world problems.”

The Office of Technology Development was instrumental in identifying the correct directors, deans, instructors, and private sector partners to ensure Hacking for Defense could be delivered and successful on the USM campus.

The class combines that same rapid problem sourcing process developed in military context with the Lean LaunchPad Methodology for rapid customer learning and product development. The course was first taught at Stanford as the Lean LaunchPad course.

The focus of the H4D class at other institutions has been on solving DOD and IC problems; USM will be adding the DHS in hope of finding dual-purpose solutions. However, initial indications are that the approach is generalizable and can embrace the challenges faced by a range of organizations that measure their success, not in terms of revenue and profit, like most private sector companies, but rather by goal achievement and creating public value for their constituents.

Problems USM-H4D Student Teams may tackle:

  • Augmented Reality for Facial Recognition: US personnel have difficulty identifying and tracking individuals in unstructured crowd environments.  Although centralized surveillance systems can scan crowds, mobile individuals and teams lack wearable technical means for autonomous surveillance. Personnel using Augmented Reality (AR) technology could scan crowds for individuals on a known list (of limited size) while the individual wearing a technical device is focused on another function or task.
  • UAS Defeat Challenge:  The ability to defeat small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) is an ever-increasing need for the US forces in both military and civilian scenarios. Small UAS are often quick and agile in addition to presenting a small target. How can we defeat the UAS, can we control it, can we land it, can we do this without the use of energetic methods?
  • Big Crypto for Little Things: Create transparent sensor-to-cloud encryption suitable for common microcontrollers used by makers. Little computers have a big future. It won’t be long before everything that can have a processor will have a processor that connects sensors to analytics in the cloud over a wireless network. This connected future is being built by a generation of “makers” who need big crypto suitable for little things like Arduino without having to offload the cryptography to a more expensive piece of hardware.
  • USN, Distributed, Disposable, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance:  On any typical day the Navy’s 7th fleet has 50-70 ships, 140 aircraft and 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Its area of responsibility covers more than 48 million square miles from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south, and from the International Date Line to the India-Pakistan border. Maintaining awareness of all submarine, surface ship, and aircraft activity through the 7th Fleet’s 48 million square miles is a daunting challenge even during peacetime. In wartime adversaries, can destroy their existing intelligence collection platforms in denied areas.  Developing a distributed and disposable air, land, and sea sensor strategy is a key element to operating in a denied environment.
  • Wearable Sensors and Apps for Divers: Navy divers work in extreme conditions, performing various underwater tasks ranging from underwater ship repair, underwater salvage, and special operations/special warfare type diving.  Because their area of operations is so varied, they can be required to utilize any type of diving equipment for use in any depth or temperature in any part of the world. Certain diving qualification allows these divers to live and work at extreme depths for days or weeks at a time, a discipline known as saturation diving.

“It’s important that graduate education includes opportunities for students to develop professional skills that transcend disciplinary boundaries and set them apart in a competitive job market. Therefore, I am very excited that our students will have the opportunity to participate in H4D beginning this summer.  This course will provide a unique training experience that requires students to address contemporary, real-world challenges in partnership with government agencies while building skills in cross-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork, strategic planning and efficient project management, and adept communication,” said Dr. Karen Coats, Dean of USM’s Graduate School.