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Hacking for Defense: Marines Partner with University of Hawaii Students
By News Release @ 1:24 AM :: 1076 Views :: Higher Education, Military

Marines Partner with University of Hawaii Students

From DVIDS, 05.06.2021

Honolulu, HI - Marines from the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific G-4 Logistics branch and instructors from the University of Hawaii at Manoa met with UH students virtually for the final presentation of the first ever UH Manoa held Hacking for Defense course May 6.

Sponsored by the Department of Defense and held at UH Manoa, H4D is a 16-week course that accepts students from business, computer science, engineering and policy majors. These students work with service members on real-world, government-sponsored national security problems. The course is a program of the National Security Innovation Network, and is a part of an ongoing relationship between NSIN and UH Manoa.

“The colleges participate in this program in which government entities, like the Marine Corps, submit proposals for,” said Maj. Ross Hrynewych, operations officer and ground electronics maintenance officer, G-4 Logistics. “And that’s exactly what we did, we submitted a proposal.”

In this H4D course, students were given a problem currently affecting G-4 and were tasked with creating a solution in the form of a product. Currently, the process of gathering information on seaports, airports, roads and other modes of travel prior to a mission takes too long. To address this, the students developed a dashboard that is capable of compiling logistical information to be used to plan military operations. The system needed to understand the ports, airfields, and road networks of the country selected for operations and be able to operate on a secure network due to the sensitivity of the information.

According to Hrynewych, the dashboard can streamline information required for a mission that would have previously taken an average of three days to gather without it.

During the course, students interviewed 74 beneficiaries ranging from service members to company managers to gain input, as well as critiques on their product to improve it. Initially, the program was created specifically for Oahu, but after further development, the scale was increased to include the entirety of the Hawaiian Islands.

Hrynewych, as well as Master Gunnery Sgt. Dale Beck, ground electronic maintenance chief, G-4 Logistics, worked as mentors for the students and met once a week over Zoom to discuss progress and other changes.

"Not every airport accepts a C-130, not every airport can land an Osprey and not every port can fit every kind of ship that we have," said Hrynewych. "If we only had a tool that could help us figure some of these things out a little bit quicker."

Dr. Marvin Young, Adjunct Professor for Mechanical Engineering and instructor for H4D, UH Manoa, has led the partnership between UH Manoa and NSIN. He worked with Jesse Gipe, NSIN Pacific-South Regional Director, and Jessica Hiraoka, Office of Naval Research Global Science Advisor to MARFORPAC, G-9 Force Design and Naval Integration Division, to involve MARFORPAC.

"It is also important to me because through these types of courses we are fostering a better understanding of the role and importance of the military," said Young. "We are actively working with MARFORPAC to identify future problem sets and sponsors and formalizing a partnership for future H4D courses at UH Manoa."

The H4D course benefits students and service members. The students learned how to create what is called a "dual-use" application. This is a product or creation that can be used by the military, and it can be used by companies in an unclassified environment. MARFORPAC benefitted by receiving a solution to the problem submitted; in this case, an Operational Level Logistics Dashboard was created.

"Students learn innovation and entrepreneurial skills and the importance of truly understanding the problem before designing a solution set," Young said. "The Marines get an important mission problem addressed and an opportunity to interact with eager students."

The course also helped students understand the role of the military in the process.

"Marines see an important mission-related problem being enthusiastically addressed by the students," Young said. "The students get to share their extensive knowledge and therefore gain validation of their value. In the end, there is a great mutual respect gained by all parties that only occurred because of this course."

According to Young, the students, sponsors, mentors and instructors were all extremely satisfied with the H4D course. The problem submitted by MARFORPAC will continue development, this time being led by the military and developed with students from UH Manoa and other universities. The success of the course ensures that Marines will continue to innovate through the effective partnership between UH Manoa, NSIN, and MARFORPAC.

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