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Hacking for Homeland Security Program

Hacking for Homeland Security | Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology seal

Hacking for Homeland Security (H4HS) is a mission-driven entrepreneurship program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that engages academia to tackle pressing homeland security challenges through project-based courses. The program harnesses university energy, talent, and creativity, bringing students together with DHS professionals, technical experts, and business leaders to develop innovative solutions for critical homeland security problems at startup speed.

The Hacking for Homeland Security Program, launched by DHS in 2020, is modeled after the Hacking for Defense® (H4D) program, a national academic course founded by entrepreneurs and national security practitioners and taught in over 50 leading universities across the United States, applying its experiential problem-solving approach to defense, energy, and diplomacy challenges. The H4HS program administered by DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is an educational partnership with the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC), the innovation company BMNT, its nonprofit arm, the Common Mission Project (CMP), and conducted in collaboration with DHS components, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The H4HS innovation platform supports real-world DHS component problems and opportunities with rapid development of solutions that can be deployed at speed.

Under the H4HS framework, DHS sponsors identify and curate a set of complex problems facing the broad homeland security enterprise. H4HS offers university students the opportunity to collaborate with DHS mentors, who provide access to expert networks and facilitate robust discovery, generating an innovation ecosystem in support of a DHS problem. Over the course of a semester, students apply a Lean launchpad methodology to develop innovative solutions to mission-critical problems using modern entrepreneurial tools and techniques. Guided by instructors and mentors, student teams develop a final knowledge product for their DHS sponsors, providing a validated innovation problem, world-class market research, and a targeted solution with recommendations for transition into operations for mission success. Through H4HS, students develop a deep understanding of the needs of government sponsors in DHS, learn about entrepreneurship, and gain real-world problem-solving experience. At the same time, DHS end-users benefit from creative solutions developed in a rigorous academic environment to address mission challenges through new policies, business practices, technologies, and companies. H4HS represents a new platform for national service and provides DHS with a unique strategic innovation capability.

Challenge| DHS to curate a set of mission-critical for university teams. Market Research| Students  work with homeland security and innovation experts to conduct research for their problems. Discovery| Students apply lean startup methods to develop a Minimally Viable Product for DHS customers.  Solution| Student teams present a fully validated problem, market research, and a solution pathway. Results| DHS enhances its ability to develop solutions and students gain invaluable experience.

Fall 2020: Colorado School of Mines
Emergency Response - FEMA

The first semester of the H4HS program was launched during the Fall 2020 semester at the Colorado School of Mines. In the inaugural course, students developed tools, technologies, and targeted knowledge products in response to emergency management challenges facing FEMA, including:

  • Wildfire risks and forest health management
  • Emergency evacuation destinations and COVID-19
  • Harnessing and delivering emergency power solutions
  • Cyber incident response
  • Disaster games (emergency simulations)

Spring 2021: Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy
Cybersecurity - CISA

The second H4HS course was held during the Spring 2021 semester at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, where graduate students created and delivered tailored solutions to challenges confronted by CISA, addressing:

  • Information sharing and outreach to small and medium-sized businesses
  • Cybersecurity and countering disinformation on COVID-19

Fall 2021: Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy
Transportation Security – TSA
Climate and the Environment - FEMA

During the Fall 2021 semester at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, H4HS students applied expertise in analytics to validate critical problems provided by DHS sponsors at TSA and FEMA, offering data-based solutions for:

  • Cybersecurity information sharing within transportation (TSA)
  • Latency issues at screening checkpoints (TSA)
  • Estimate carbon market offset to incentivize flood buyout programs (FEMA)

Spring 2022: Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy

Students at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy are collaborating with sponsors at TSA and FEMA to develop innovative solutions to complex challenges, including:

  • More efficient security baggage check for improved customer experience (TSA)
  • Reuniting families after natural disaster (FEMA)

Interested in bringing Hacking for Homeland Security to your University? Reach out to us through the S&T Innovation mailbox.

Last Updated: 07/05/2023
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