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helicopter in the sky

How do you safely land a helicopter in an urban area, or improve medevacs? Those are the kind of real-world situations University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering students tackled when they worked with the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division and the U.S. Air Force’s 15th Wing at Hickam Air Force Base, gaining practical experience, while setting themselves up for potential internships and careers.

The fall 2022 engineering course is part of the Hacking for Defense program, under a new initiative called the National Security Innovation Network, housed in UH’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization. Twenty students are working on the following issues, which are related to helicopter safety and consolidated training for airmen:

  • Improving safety equipment used on medevac missions to make them safer for the person being rescued as well as the crew working on the rescue mission.
  • Making helicopter landings safer for dense urban environments, because people on the ground often rush towards the helicopter putting both the crew and the local population in danger.
  • Consolidate training and certification for airmen readiness.

“The number one thing the students should be gaining is real world experience in problem solving. We say that this course is about problem solving and not about the problem you are assigned,” said Jeff Hui, UH Mānoa’s Hacking for Defense instructor. “The real world aspect is also important, because the course is an internship. Students get to flex their professional skills, such as communication, stakeholder management, project management, etc.”

Students receive a dedicated sponsor from the Department of Defense and a dedicated mentor from Booz Allen Hamilton. Last semester, six students converted these relationships into summer internships with the two organizations, according to Hui. He also added that students are taught the lean startup methodology, which is something he has used in his 20 years in working in tech and startups.

Related UH News story on the lean startup methodology:

Spring 2022 success

five people standing next to each other
Lightning Academy platoon leader 1LT Colin Stone and students of the spring 2022 Hacking for Defense course. (Photo credit: U.S. Army)

The partnership between UH and the 25th Infantry Division launched in the spring when five UH Mānoa students in the Hacking for Defense course tackled another issue presented by the U.S. Army: figuring out how to recharge solar powered equipment in the dense jungle canopy of the Indo-Pacific region. The students were Allen Lum, Hangbo Zhang, Joshua Tritt, Gaila Galano and Caleb Mueller from the College of Engineering and Information and Computer Sciences Department.

—By Marc Arakaki

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