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Hacking for Defense/ Homeland Security


Units: 12


Hacking for Defense (H4D) and Hacking for Homeland Security (H4HS) is a unique Heinz College course offered in collaboration with the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which challenges students to tackle new and emerging threats against the United States as well as cultivating new potential innovations through mission-driven entrepreneurship. Students will be placed in teams that will be given the opportunity to select from a set of carefully curated, complex, and real-world DoD or DHS problem sets. Student teams learn about the Department of Defense and/or the Department of Homeland Security as an organization, its culture values, and its mission to instill a culture of relentless resilience across the United States. Teams will also learn to apply Lean Innovation frameworks and tools to identify key beneficiaries, understand their needs, and develop and test iterative minimum viable products (MVPs), which ultimately lead to a product solution with the potential for implementation. Using a "flipped-classroom" approach, the teams learn the appropriate methodology to investigate, learn, build, and brief the teaching team on their progress each week as well as receive direct coaching from their instructors, mentors, and subject matter experts (SME’s) from across the DoD and/or internal DHS network coupled with external entrepreneurship ecosystems. This course provides a direct focus on real problem sets from the Department of Defense and/or critical infrastructure departments such as DHS's Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Emergency and Management Agency (FEMA) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Learning Outcomes

Skills and knowledge the students are expected to gain and how they will be assessed include:

-Obtaining hands-on experience in understanding and working with the Department of

Homeland Security on real-world and current problems

-Applying appropriate Lean LaunchPad tools and techniques (MMC, VPC, etc.) to successfully organize and operate within a DHS project boundary which will allow for the proper evaluation, escalation, risk management, summarization, and congregation of appropriate deliverables to all stakeholders (beneficiaries, program sponsor, faculty, etc.) involved in the project.

-An appropriate selection and demonstration of hypothesis formulating, discovery, information gathering and hypothesis testing through confident knowledge and skills that will be applied to the final prototype and/or other deliverables.

-Development of critical thinking skills, interviewing, teamwork, complex problem solving, and building of professional networks through an entrepreneurial mindset.

-Applications of extracting insights from data collection for effective problem assessment and solving that are applied to the scope development through the creation of MVPs and that allow for a properly vetted design, construction, and eventual summation of the project.

-Clear, concise, and effective storytelling through the presentation of weekly findings and final deliverables with an implementation of a formal client signoff process that ensures proper closure to the expected final state of the project.

Prerequisites Description

Optional but strongly encouraged prerequisites include a background in lean innovation frameworks, project management or IT project management, critical thinking skills, estimation, organizational management, communication, and strategizing.