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USM takes on security — ‘Hacking for Defense’ class will teach how to innovate solutions


One started with Legos and Lincoln Logs, while the other favored remote control vehicles and model rockets growing up in his hometown of Richton.

Now, Professors Henry Jones and Daniel DeMott, along with mentors from the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and the intelligence community, will show University of Southern Mississippi students how to innovate solutions quickly for national security issues as part of the course “Hacking for Defense (H4D),” which will be taught for the first time this summer.

USM will be the only school in the Southeast and one of a handful in the nation to offer H4D. Jones and DeMott, vice president of research at the office of technology development, will teach graduate and undergraduate students how to combine the rapid-problem-sourcing process developed on battlefields in Afghanistan with the Lean LaunchPad Methodology for rapid customer learning and product development.

“The Lean Startup method was developed by entrepreneurship experts at Stanford and in Silicon Valley who crystallized years of hard-won experience into a thoughtful process for building new businesses,” said Jones, who grew up in Richton. “This is powerful knowledge that is still being disseminated across the country, and I am excited to be teaching it to students and faculty in Mississippi.”

Chase Kasper, assistant vice president for Research, Technology Transfer and Corporate Relations, will join the two professors in teaching methodologies that are used for instruction in the H4D course. These methodologies have been used to vet the value proposition for various innovations, inventions and discoveries that tech transfer officers evaluate for the future of technology.

Kasper said, “In this case, the class is flipped. The students are at the front and the teachers and mentors are at the back so it’s the next generation of a learning style which is the business case model for a particular innovation.”

“I have always loved building things, starting with remote control vehicles and model rockets,” said Jones. “I studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate, and robotics in graduate school at Stanford.  I have started five technology businesses, all with some level of success, including my current company – Kopis Mobile based in Flowood – that builds electronics and software for the military and law enforcement.  Those businesses have created new innovations in remote sensing, unmanned aircraft, disaster relief, electric utilities, quantitative finance, and tactical operations.”

“When I was a kid we had Legos, Lincoln logs, pinball machines, and soap box derby cars,” said DeMott, an Army retiree who worked in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “If you asked my wife she would tell you if there is a new gadget, Dan will get it, if he needs it or not! My real exposure to technology was as a young soldier serving as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Tech, a.k.a. Army Bomb Squad. My real ability is looking at technology and seeing other applications it can be used for rather than the one it was built for.”

Study topics may include the use of facial recognition in crowds, defeating small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), sensor-to-cloud encrytion, and wearable sensors and apps for Navy divers.

Kasper said: “I think the most important thing (the students) will learn is the mission model canvas, which is essentially a hybrid from the business model canvas. It’s the way you take a look at the value proposition for particular technologies: ‘What is the problem you’re solving? Who is the end customer? Who is the end user? Are they the same? What channels do you use to reach them? What’s the best business model to approach getting the technology to the marketplace,’ if you will.

“This methodology which is Lean Method was created by Steven Blank. The business model canvas has been adopted and slightly reconditioned into the mission model canvas which is directed specifically at problems that military or warfighters or logistics of the respective arms services may have. It doesn’t have to be something that’s weaponized; it could serve a logistical capacity, you know for example, a pump or a cable or something that’s used in day to day arms forces, individual soldiers or soldiers’ day to day routine, not necessarily a war theater.”

The class is open to all majors interested in technology security. The more diverse the students are, the better their groups can address and solve security problems. The core component of H4D is for students to work with mentors in their military fields so they can brainstorm dynamic solutions via technology for national security. Other schools teaching the course include Stanford, Georgetown, James Madison, Boise State and Southern California.

Kasper believes the timing is enhanced for courses teaching innovative solutions with technology.

“I think what’s interesting about the canvas is that it’s the new iteration of what my generation would call a ‘business plan,’” Kasper said.

“This is a unique way to look at an overall ecosystem of the model for business. There’s the old models like ‘who is your market?’ ‘who is your customer?’ and so on. This looks (at problems) more holistically and multi-dimensionally. I think there’s more gleam for today’s student with the technology available and information and speed in which information is shared and accessible.”

DeMott added that their goal is to get students to understand how to solve a problem for the military using the Mission Model Canvas, a skill set that is transferable when developing a business model canvas in the Lean Launchpad Method.

“When I went to college majoring in business and psychology, we didn’t learn the Lean Start Method,” he said. “We learned about business plans, marketing strategies, international business, business law and statistics – none of this told me how to really start a new business but rather how to maintain a current business. I like solving problems. I especially like solving problems for real world situations. The problems we will be solving for Department of Defense have other applications in solving other problems in so many different ecosystems. I want students who want to start a business to come to USM to learn how to start one.”


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