Mentors Needed for Student Teams Addressing Critical State Department Challenges

Opportunity to help shape the next-generation of problem-solvers, contribute to meaningful solutions for the nation

Cooper Hoffmeyer

September 15, 2023

Here’s a great opportunity to make the world a better, safer place: Mentors are needed to help Hacking for Diplomacy students at two leading universities address critical foreign policy challenges such as predicting security risks like the Havana syndrome, improving communication during crises, and preventing adversaries from collecting classified information via wireless signals. 

This is an exciting opportunity to help shape the next generation of problem-solvers and contribute to meaningful solutions for our nation.

Mentors play a critical role throughout Hacking for Diplomacy, offering guidance, support and domain expertise to the student teams as they work toward practical solutions to real-world challenges

This for-credit class is a sister course to the national Hacking for Defense class that focuses on national security matters. Both classes give students a new platform for performing national service as it teaches them to use modern entrepreneurial tools and processes to solve real-world problems at startup speed.

This semester, at the Rochester Institute of Technology and James Madison University, 62 students are already hard at work getting to the root of 10 problems sponsored by the Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security Office of Security Technology and the Directorate of Cyber and Technology Security.

From left: RIT students Jaime Campanelli, Randall Weber, AJ Musacchio and Jenelle Salazar share their lessons learned during the final Hacking for Diplomacy class in Spring.

The problems are:

• High Latency, Higher Stakes: DS technology operation groups need to transmit high-definition video data from surveillance systems at overseas offices to domestic command centers quickly. The goal is to make better-informed decisions in response to threats at overseas offices.

• Overwatch: Designing the Next Generation C-UAS Interface: Diplomatic Security's Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System (C-UAS) operators monitoring for threats need a centralized interface to autonomously gather data from multiple C-UAS sensors and optimize the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).

• User Behavior Analytics: Diplomatic Security’s network defenders need a more reliable way to detect behavioral anomalies and counter malicious activity on DOS networks before incidents occur.

• Outsmarting Smart Devices: Political and economic officers at U.S. embassies need alerts when their personal devices' unauthorized wireless capabilities are enabled in controlled areas to prevent adversaries from collecting classified information via wireless signals.

• Critical Communication: Security response teams at U.S. government diplomatic and consular facilities need simultaneous secure, reliable, and mobile routes of communication during threat incidents to prevent misunderstandings and confusion, ultimately saving lives.

• Longer Lifespan, Stronger Security: Diplomatic Security’s engineers and technicians need a better way to determine the lifespans of explosive detection and X-ray equipment for over 2,000 worldwide units to reduce cost and increase time efficiency to fortify the physical security of U.S. embassies and consulates.

• Mystery Risks: Diplomatic Security regional security teams need real-time identification of changing environmental variables, to predict security risks like Havana syndrome and gather environmental data more efficiently. This problem set will explore the threat-detecting capabilities of personal smart devices.

• Caught on Camera: Design engineers responsible for upgrading cameras at embassies need a policy that accounts for the capabilities of newly purchased high-definition digital camera equipment to reduce costs and ensure full surveillance coverage of the compound to monitor for potential threats.

• Taking Inventory: Security teams need a more efficient way to account for on-site security technology assets at overseas offices, reducing over-reporting that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

• Less Than Lethal: On-site security personnel at overseas offices require Less-Than-Lethal (LTL) security systems to deter large groups of attackers from breaching facilities.

How You Can Help

Experts from various fields are eligible to participate. All that’s needed is that you work in a field relevant to the problem set and have a network of colleagues for the students to interview. Here is what you can do as a student mentor:

• Connect students to subject matter experts who can give them insights into their problem areas.

• Regularly meet with student teams (30 minutes per week).

• Be accessible to the student team via email throughout the semester.

• Offer students guidance to help them navigate communication with government officials and industry experts.

• Support students as they help the Bureau of Diplomatic Security solve a critical problem.

To apply to become a mentor for the Fall 2023 semester, click HERE. For more information, please contact

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