NSIN campus director patrick reynolds

New Federal Innovations Program Looks to Tap Top-tier Talent at Tech

Students now have new entrepreneurial opportunities on campus.

Thanks to a Department of Defense (DoD) program that recently expanded to Georgia Tech, undergraduate and graduate students have a chance to serve the country by finding solutions to current national security threats.

The National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), established in 2016, officially joined the campus community in 2020. NSIN's mission is to create alliances between communities of innovators to establish a network of problem solvers. Its presence on campus builds on the Institute’s longstanding collaborative relationship with the DoD.

“The threats to our national security are constantly evolving. Our goal is to support our military and civilian defense personnel confronting these challenges by developing a network of problem-solvers that includes academic innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Patrick Reynolds, NSIN University Program Director at Georgia Tech.

“Because Georgia Tech is so highly ranked academically and widely known for its entrepreneurial ecosystem, we want to tap top-tier talent here and engage them in solving cybersecurity threats and other national defense problems in new ways.”

To connect with these students, NSIN will coordinate with existing entrepreneurial support programs like CREATE-XStartup Exchange, and ATDC, as well as with other Georgia Tech resources for innovators.

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“The entrepreneurial infrastructure in place at Georgia Tech is incredible. It’s a huge asset for NSIN, and we’re excited to partner with these programs,” Reynolds said.

“We’re pleased to formally welcome NSIN to Georgia Tech. The sophistication of today’s cybersecurity threats demands an interdisciplinary approach to taking on these challenges, so this is a unique opportunity for students across campus, regardless of their major, to gain real-world experience while helping the country,” said Charles Isbell, dean of Computing and John P. Imlay Jr. chair.

NSIN will offer its own programs, events, and resources to student entrepreneurs as well. These include fellowships, employment and recruiting events, training workshops, and more. They will also feature hackathons, the first of which is scheduled next month.

The upcoming NSIN Mad Hacks: Fury Code hackathon will challenge participants to develop new approaches to helping crewed and autonomous battlefield vehicles survive cyberattacks and other electronic warfare assaults. The winners will earn a contract worth between $15,000 and $30,000 to continue prototyping their solution.

The hackathon, which is open to all students, faculty, and recent graduates, kicks off Feb. 5 and runs through Feb. 26. Registration is open now.

Another NSIN opportunity for students is X-Force. This fellowship is likely familiar to Tech students due to the notable successes of the 2020 Fellows program. The NSIN X-Force program connects undergraduate and graduate students with operational military commands. Students accepted to the program will work with a sponsoring command to address specific, real-world security issues. The extended deadline to register for X-Force is Feb. 1.

“X-Force is a tremendous opportunity for Georgia Tech students to put their skills and abilities to use serving the country while working directly with military and national security experts. This summer opportunity offers both full-time paid and part-time unpaid fellowship positions,” said Reynolds.

NSIN will also be in the classroom beginning in the Fall. Hacking for Defense (H4D) is a semester-long for-credit course. In this class, Georgia Tech subject matter experts and DoD end users work with student teams to develop minimum viable products (MVP) for existing security problems. While usually far from being completely fleshed out, successful MVPs can serve as early prototypes earmarked for further development.

“Hacking for Defense courses leverage entrepreneurial methods like the five Lean Startup principles. Along with developing an MVP, teams conduct a hundred or more stakeholder interviews as part of creating their MVP solutions to national security challenges,” said Reynolds.

Georgia Tech is part of the NSIN Southeast Region, one of 11 commercial innovation hubs throughout the country. NSIN customers and strategic partners in this region include Special Operations Command, Central Command, Southern Command, Army Special Operations Command, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, and the Air Force Special Operations Command. NSIN is headquartered in Arlington, VA.