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Florida Poly students working with U.S. military to solve tech challenges

One team is working with the Air Force to streamline communication tools.

Students at Florida Polytechnic University are joining forces to identify solutions to some of the U.S. military’s most pressing challenges.

Hacking for Defense (H4D) is a program of the Department of Defense’s National Security Innovation Network (NSIN.) It challenges students at some of the nation’s top universities to find solutions to a wide variety of the military’s communications, logistics, and modernization problems.

H4D curriculum is in place on four Capstone Design teams. The teams are working with Army, Air Force, Marines, and Air National Guard military installations in Georgia and North Carolina.

“This connects us with a very large Department of Defense network within the state,” said Matt Bohm, director of industry engagement and capstone projects at Florida Poly. “Defense is an $85-to-$90 billion market just in Florida, and even though these projects are with bases in other states, there’s a wealth of projects and jobs in Florida as well.”

One of the teams is working to improve communications tools for United States Air Force squadron commanders. Under its Curren system, commenders must access multiple messaging apps, email systems and collaboration tools in order to share information about things like flight and maintenance schedules, personal data and social event notices.

Florida Poly students are developing a more efficient process.

“When you hear the words ‘national security,’ you don’t necessarily think about computer science or engineering, but we are using innovation in those areas to fix those problems in a very interesting way,” said Doga Demirel, an assistant professor of computer science at Florida Poly.

Demirel was one of several Florida Poly faculty members to receive training to provide students enhanced curriculum and framework required under the H4D program.

A total of 13 students are participating in the project, which also includes interviewing 10 stakeholders a week to gather information about issues they are addressing.

Eventually, Florida Poly leaders hope to participate in as many as 10 projects a year.

“What makes Hacking for Defense incredible is students get to serve their country while learning how to build a startup to solve real national security problems,” said Tommy Sowers, southeast regional director of NSIN. “Florida is a huge military state and has great universities, but the ability for university students to work and make a connection to a real problem in the military, and also for the military to connect with the fantastic problem solvers inside universities, doesn’t normally happen.”

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