Small Wars Journal

Mission Driven Entrepreneurs — Stanford Hacking for Defense v4.0

Sat, 04/06/2019 - 9:22pm

Mission Driven Entrepreneurs — Stanford Hacking for Defense v4.0


Peter A. Newell



We are about to kick off the 4th year of our nation’s premier program for teaching Mission Driven Entrepreneurship — Stanford’s Hacking for Defense course. This year’s course, like each of the previous three, will challenge us, our students and an entire ecosystem of interested partners to once again help bring solutions to some of our country’s hardest problems.


I’m really looking forward to being back in the classroom with last year’s teaching team of Steve BlankSteve Weinstein and Jeff Decker. And I’m even more excited to have our favorite H4D team mentor, Tom Bedecarre, fleet up to join us to teach this year’s class as well.


We are proud to see our plank owning course advisors, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and Stanford Venture Technology Program Director Tom Byers back again. Also back this year as course advisors are Arun Majumdar, former ARPA-E Director and now Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, and Sally Benson, Co-Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy. John Mitchell, Stanford’s Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and professor of Computer Science returns as an advisor as well.


Rounding out our team this year is a rockstar set of TA’s without whom we would never get this class off the ground.

  • Nate Simon is a senior in Mechanical Engineering who was part of Team Polaris during last year’s H4D class and worked on a problem to improve personnel recovery for the Air Force.
  • Diego Solorzano is a second-year Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) student who is most interested AI’s potential to transform every human activity. He’s also a successful start-up founder in his own right.
  • MacKenzie Burnett was also a member of last year’s H4D class, working with a team that helped the Defense Acquisition University automate work flows. MacKenzie is a start-up co-founder and graduate of YCombinator as well.
  • Aidan McCarty, also a former member of Team Polaris from last year’s H4D class is on leave from Stanford (but not from H4D :)) while he launches e-pluribus, a company that helps Americans contact their representatives anywhere online.

Thanks to the support of our class sponsors at the Office of Naval Research and MD5 the diversity of this year’s set of problems is mind boggling. With problems from each military service, the Department of Defense, the US Coast Guard, the Veterans Administration and a couple of Intelligence Agencies all represented, we are sure to stretch our collective imaginations well beyond where we’ve been before. Here’s a quick look at what’s in store for this year’s class:

Looking to see cutting-edge education in action? Stanford’s H4D class meets every Tuesday from 4:30–7:20 pm beginning April 2nd and ending on June 4th. If you are interested in joining us for a class, reach out to one of the instructors or the TA’s to get further details.

About the Author(s)

Peter A. Newell is the CEO of BMNT, an innovation company headquartered in Palo Alto, CA; with offices in Los Angeles, Boston, San Diego, London, and Washington.