Stanford H4D students tour Beale, gain valuable insight

Stanford University students tour Beale Air Force Base as a part of the university's Hacking for Defense partnership.

Master Sgt. Jacob L. Longest (center), 9th Physiological Support Squadron flight chief, gives a tour to a group of students from Stanford University’s Hacking 4 Defense class where they learned about the many unique challenges faced by U-2 Dragon Lady pilots at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., April 13, 2018. The H4D class allows students to tackle complex problems that are critical to national security and invent new technologies with assistance from of a team of engineers, scientists, graduate students and policy experts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Dana M. Tourtellotte/unreleased)

Stanford University students tour Beale Air Force Base as a part of the university's Hacking for Defense partnership.

Christopher Yeh, Stanford University Hacking 4 Defense student, looks at aerial imagery produced by the Optical Bar Camera at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., April 13, 2018. The 9th Intelligence Squadron is the sole Department of Defense unit responsible for OBC operations through the employment of the Film Processing Center (FPC). (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Dana M. Tourtellotte/unreleased)

Stanford University students tour Beale Air Force Base as a part of the university's Hacking for Defense partnership.

Airman 1st Class Douglas P. Lorance (right), 9th Intelligence Squadron aerial imagery production technician, gives a tour to a group of students from Stanford University’s Hacking 4 Defense class at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., April 13, 2018. The student team learned about the path that film travels as it gets developed in the Film Processing Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Dana M. Tourtellotte/unreleased)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

The 9th Intelligence Squadron hosted a four-person team from Stanford University’s Hacking 4 Defense class, Apr. 20, 2018.

The non-profit organization, H4D’s purpose is to generate problem-solving cooperation between academia and the Department of Defense. This specific team’s goal is to help the Air Force through the continuous improvement processes associated with the conversion of traditional film for use on a digital platform associated with the aerial imagery process, exploitation and dissemination from the Optical Bar Camera that flies on the U-2 aircraft.

As the partnership began, the initial problem statement was framed around a computer vision solution, but Chief Master Sgt. Ian Eishen, 9th Intelligence Squadron superintendent, said the team may find something else that will be a better fit.

“Partnering with academia exposes our Airmen to an entirely different mindset, thought process and network to couple with what they are already developing on an Air Force base,” Eishen said. “This adds a new set of tools to their toolbox for attacking future problem sets.”

Eishen also stressed the importance of bringing the Stanford students to the actual work environment for a firsthand look at the equipment and processes involved. Many of the students have no military background or knowledge base, so it is vital they understand the Airmen’s actions within processes in an effort to streamline operations.

During their visit, the students were shown the measures 9th Reconnaissance Wing pilots must take to execute a successful flight, they visited the Film Processing Center and viewed the end products from the unit’s geospatial analysts.

“Just seeing the whole process from one end to another helps us to see where our initial problem statement fits in the overall system, and more importantly, if this is the most important problem right now that we need to solve,” said Joseph Lee, Stanford H4D student.

“This tour has really allowed us to understand how the process here works from the perspective of those who work on this mission,” said Minjia Zhong, Stanford H4D student. “It’s really allowed me to empathize with the struggles that these people here are facing day to day.”

The tour of Beale was one piece of the constant interaction between Beale Airmen and the H4D students. The program is scheduled to conclude in June with the presentation of proposed avenues for the mission improvement process.