Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Birthplace Of Google Is Now Developing Military Tech
A group of students at Stanford University in California are coming up with ideas for next-generation defense products.
Part of the university’s Hacking 4 Defense program, the course’s 32 undergraduate and graduate students are broken into eight teams of four, each with their own military liaison, and a plan for a minimum viable product, or MVP. Their goal is to create prototypes of products for use by the Department of Defense and intelligence community.
The idea for the class came from instructor Steve Blank’s previous Lean LaunchPad course, and is an attempt to apply the agility and speed of the startup industry to national security. In the Lean LaunchPad class, students come up with a vision of a product they’d like to create and set about doing just that. In Hacking 4 Defense, the focus is on national security.
“I think this class brings all those pieces together,” Blank told Task & Purpose. “The military knows how to do that in wartime, but it defaults to the most bureaucratic organization in the world in peacetime … the problem is that our adversaries are now disrupting us 24/7 in different parts of the world and we need the agility to respond.”
The first class began on March 29 and over the course of eight weeks, students take national security problems and learn to apply startup practices by working closely with their consumers, or in this case, members of the military and intelligence communities, to ensure the end product meets their needs.
One of the teams, calling itself aquaLink, is working on a prototype that enables Navy divers to monitor their physiological conditions under water; Team Guardian aims to develop countermeasures for cheap off-the-shelf commercial drones in anticipation for the day adversaries learn to weaponize them; and another team, called Skynet, plans to construct a small drone for use by ground troops as a surveillance asset.
Not all of the students’ ideas are focused on creating new hardware. For example, team Narrative Mind is trying to understand and disrupt enemy groups online — the Islamic State’s social media apparatus comes to mind.
Courtesy photoInstructors Peter Newell, Steve Blank, and Joe Felter give feedback to students during Stanford University’s Hacking 4 Defense course.
While some in the military and intelligence community may be initially skeptical about college students designing equipment and technology for use by intelligence analysts and troops on the ground, the student’s military liaisons and instructor’s aren’t.
“A lot of these students had no idea that these problems are out there, and that they could get involved,” said Joe Felter, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel and one of the course’s instructors. “They get that they’re able to take this very successful methodology … and modify it, so you can actually take this and apply to military and intelligence.”
Another team, Right of Boom, initially set out to create new hardware and equipment for bomb technicians, but after a little coaching, they went back to the drawing board, and suited up. In bomb suits. Now, the team is trying to create a better way to provide high-volume, accurate reporting after an improvised explosive device attack.
To better understand the needs of explosive ordnance disposal technicians, one of the team members from Right of Boom tested out their prototype while wearing a bomb suit.
The student’s willingness to change direction on a product and pursue a new course of action based on the needs of the consumer is what makes Blank and Felter believe they’re helping to create something new, and hopefully, long lasting.
Blank said that he envisions the course as a sort of technology-based Reserve Officer’s Training Corps and that the program is a way “to serve your country without putting a uniform on.”
Felter said he hopes the course, and other classes like it, will trigger a generational change.
“To develop a generation of engineers, computer scientists, and students from other disciplines who are aware of these problems and may be more inclined to get involved various other capacities,” said Felter. “We’re planting the seed now, but we’ll reap the returns on that investment down the road in multiple ways.”
A group of vets are raising money to pay for a medal the Iraqi government awarded them, but never delivered
In June 2011 Iraq's defense minister announced that U.S. troops who had deployed to the country would receive the Iraq Commitment Medal in recognition of their service. Eight years later, millions of qualified veterans have yet to receive it.
The reason: The Iraqi government has so far failed to provide the medals to the Department of Defense for approval and distribution.
A small group of veterans hopes to change that.
For a cool $8.5 million, you could be the proud owner of a "fully functioning" F-16 A/B Fighting Falcon fighter jet that a South Florida company acquired from Jordan.
The combat aircraft, which can hit a top speed of 1,357 mph at 40,000 feet, isn't showroom new — it was built in 1980. But it still has a max range of 2,400 miles and an initial climb rate of 62,000 feet per minute and remains militarized, according to The Drive, an automotive website that also covers defense topics, WBDO News 96.5 reported Wednesday.
A doctor who treated accident victims has a radioactive isotope in his body. Russia says it came from his diet
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian authorities said on Friday that a doctor who treated those injured in a mysterious accident this month had the radioactive isotope Caesium-137 in his body, but said it was probably put there by his diet.
The deadly accident at a military site in northern Russia took place on Aug. 8 and caused a brief spurt of radiation. Russian President Vladimir Putin later said it occurred during testing of what he called promising new weapons systems.
Groundwater at the Air Force Academy is contaminated with the same toxic chemicals polluting a southern El Paso County aquifer, expanding a problem that has cost tens of millions of dollars to address in the Pikes Peak region.
Plans are underway to begin testing drinking water wells south of the academy in the Woodmen Valley area after unsafe levels of the chemicals were found at four locations on base, the academy said Thursday.