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  1. Science and Technology Directorate
  2. News Room
  3. University Students to "Hack" Pressing Homeland Security Challenges

News Release: University Students to "Hack" Pressing Homeland Security Challenges

Release Date: March 4, 2022

S&T Public Affairs, 202-254-2385

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announces the fourth course of the Hacking for Homeland Security (H4HS) program is set for the Spring 2022 Semester at Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy. Participating students will come up with solutions to reunite families after a natural disaster for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and more efficient security baggage check for the flying public for Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

“H4HS taps into the energy and imagination of talented students to deliver forward-looking solutions to evolving security challenges facing the nation,” said Kathryn Coulter Mitchell, DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “We welcome the entrepreneurial approach that H4HS brings to our innovation needs and we hope the experience will inspire students to join us on the mission, as partners, or future federal employees.”

H4HS is an educational partnership between S&T, the innovation firm BMNT Inc., its nonprofit arm, the Common Mission Project (CMP) and the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC). The program engages engineering, business, and policy students from leading universities to develop innovative solutions to mission-critical homeland security challenges. Undergraduate and graduate student teams work closely with DHS problem sponsors, business mentors and trained faculty in a semester-long course, applying an entrepreneurial approach to their project-based courses.

Both FEMA and TSA have been involved in H4HS since its inception. FEMA sponsored the first semester focused on emergency management, and recently had CMU students working on reuse of land after a natural disaster focusing on climate change.

“The student team delivered a practical tool to estimate carbon market offset to incentivize buyout programs,” said Heath Mitchell, program manager for Federal Insurance in FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration. “The tool will be instrumental for FEMA to quantify the environmental benefits of mitigation in addition to the economic benefits that FEMA already monitors.”

TSA is interested in making the airport security process more efficient and a better customer experience. TSA Administrator David Pekoske heard the student teams’ presentations last semester, and this semester, the students are working on another TSA sponsored initiative.

“Maintaining a comprehensive partner network is among the guiding principles outlined in the TSA innovation doctrine,” said TSA Administrator Pekoske. “We engage with academia, through programs like H4HS, to solve TSA’s more nuanced challenges where fresh perspectives are needed. These partnerships help TSA maintain its edge and agility to stay ahead of emerging threats.”

H4HS is modeled after the Hacking for Defense program taught in over 50 universities across the United States, applying its experiential problem-solving approach to defense, energy, and diplomacy challenges. The “hacking for” program represents a new platform for national service and builds a DHS innovation pipeline for solving critical national security problems at startup speed.

"Providing meaningful and enriching learning experiences like the H4HS program is critical to the learning process," said Randy Trzeciak, director of the Master of Science in Information Security Policy & Management Program at CMU’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy. “We’re excited to continue this relationship as it gives our students the opportunity to work with DHS to address challenging problems in the security domain. The relationships built will continue well past the spring semester as they transition into the workforce in government, industry, law enforcement and academic institutions."

For more information, visit the Hacking for Homeland Security Program page.


Last Updated: 03/04/2022
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