Join NSIN, formerly MD5, for our continuing series of hackathons where you can test your innovation skills and tackle big national security challenges! We’re looking for students, developers, designers, and hackers from the academic, military, and start-up communities to come together for a weekend to explore non-traditional, innovative concepts for tactical computing capabilities in austere environments. NSIN will provide up to $90,000 in total contract awards to winning teams to further develop their concepts!

Challenge Overview

In "Off the Grid", we're working with US Army Special Forces (SF) to help them develop new capabilities for operating at the edge. SF operate in austere environments, often training and conducting missions with local counterparts and living with the same limited access to resources and communication infrastructure. Furthermore, the technological advantage that SF operators enjoy is quickly eroding as adversaries rapidly develop new capabilities.

Operational Constraints:

This austere operating environment imposes several technological constraints on operations:

  • Weight: Only what they can carry in on their backs. The weight of power sources and electronics hardware is a limiting constraint on how much processing and communication capability a team can have in the field. Energy efficient solutions, high energy-density power sources, and an innovative combination of both can increase these capabilities.
  • Connectivity: Limited traditional satellite, radio, or other connectivity. SF must be able to operate independently wherever they are deployed without any assumption of support from back home or from allies.
  • Security: Mobile systems must be hardened against hostile intrusions and communications must be encrypted.

Focus Areas:

Despite this challenging environment and daunting operational constraints, SF operators must be able to perform many critical functions. This hackathon will address two challenges of properly equipping operators with the tools necessary to accomplish their missions:

  • Edge Processing: Computer processing currently relies on bulky and heavy hardware and power sources. How can we improve the ability to perform complex, analytical tasks (e.g., computer vision, natural language processing), in the field, without access to cloud computing?
  • Data Transmission: Operators often have requirements to transmit large amounts of data to command elements when there is little or no communications infrastructure available. For example, they may be required to stream high definition, full-motion, real-time video or store up to 32 hours’ worth of data for later transmission. What innovative capabilities can be developed to collect, manage, and transmit data in austere environments?

Ideal solutions should be platform agnostic and minimize the size and weight of hardware and power sources.

NSIN will provide up to $90,000 in total contract awards to winning teams to further develop their concepts!


Participation is open to all individuals over 18 years in age. Teams are welcome, but each member needs to register as an individual. All participants must have registered at https://offthegrid-hackathon.eventbrite.com

Winning teams receive the opportunity for funding to further develop or demonstrate solution. Any recipient of funding must have the ability to legally perform work in the United States of America.


Teams will submit, at minimum, a PowerPoint presentation of their solution to DevPost by 8:30 am on Sunday, May 19, 2019.

Teams will also have an assigned table in the hackathon space at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine to display their solution, which must be set up by 8:30 am on Sunday, May 19, 2019.

Hackathon Sponsors


$90,000 in prizes

Follow-on Contract for Further Development (5)

Up to six teams will be selected to receive a follow-on contract from a total pool of $90,000 to develop their solutions.

Devpost Achievements

Submitting to this hackathon could earn you:

How to enter

This is an in-person event to be held at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine in La Jolla, San Diego, CA. To participate, you must be registered on Evenbrite at https://offthegrid-hackathon.eventbrite.com.

To be considered for judging, all concepts need to be submitted on Devpost along with identifying your team members.


Dr. Bill Cohen

Dr. Bill Cohen
CTO, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology)

BG Josh Rudd

BG Josh Rudd
Deputy Commanding General, 1st Special Forces Command

LTC Josh Thiel

LTC Josh Thiel
Battalion Commander, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group

Ms. Keysha Webb

Ms. Keysha Webb
Director, Defense Intelligence Innovation Office

Ms. Joy Shanaberger

Ms. Joy Shanaberger
CEO, Boone Group

Mr. Dennis Abremski

Mr. Dennis Abremski
Executive Director, Institute for the Global Entrepreneur

Mr. Gerald "Rocky" McMurray

Mr. Gerald "Rocky" McMurray
Investor, Tech Coast Angels

VADM Walter Davis (retired)

VADM Walter Davis (retired)
Co-Founder, EvoNexus

Dr. Albert Legaspi

Dr. Albert Legaspi
Senior Engineer for Tactical and Enterprise Networks, SPAWAR, US Navy

Judging Criteria

  • Judging Procedures
    The first round of judging will be science fair style at 8:30 am on Sunday. Eight Finalists will be selected based on categories 1-3 below to make final presentations at 1:00 pm on Sunday. Up to six winners will be selected based on categories 1-4 below.
  • Award Selection
    The number of winners awarded is dependent upon the distribution of startup teams and individual teams selected to split the total $90,000.00 award. Six is the maximum, but it may be less.
  • 1. Impact
    Weighted at 35% for the science fair and 30% for the final round.
  • Impact - Problem Statement
    How well defined is the problem scope?
  • Impact - Problem Alignment
    How well does the Problem Statement align with the Challenge Statement and focus areas?
  • Impact - Need, DoD
    How significant is the DoD need for the proposed solution? What benefit does it provide over the status quo?
  • Impact - Need, Private Sector
    How significant is the private sector need for the proposed solution? What benefit does it provide over the status quo?
  • 2. Team Membership and Execution
    Weighted at 25% for the science fair and 20% for the final round.
  • Team Membership and Execution - Diversity of Team Members
    How diverse are the team members’ experience levels, skills, and backgrounds?
  • Team Membership and Execution - Hack Journey
    How well did you incorporate new information learned at the hackathon into your solution? How did you use this information to iterate to improved approaches?
  • Team Membership and Execution - Customer Engagement
    How well did you engage with hackathon mentors and subject matter experts?
  • 3. Product/Service
    Weighted at 40% for the science fair and 30% for the final round.
  • Product/Service - Description
    How well do you describe your product or service, its beneficial features, and how it is different?
  • Product/Service - Applicability
    How well does the proposed solution work in anticipated operating conditions?
  • Product/Service - Practicality for Stakeholders
    How practical is the solution for all stakeholders (not just end users)?
  • Product/Service - Resources required at deployment
    How reasonable are the resources required to deploy the proposed solution?
  • Product/Service - Technical Feasibility
    How credible is the scientific basis for the proposed solution?
  • Product/Service - Innovative approach
    Is your approach based on out-of-date technologies or ground-breaking ideas?
  • 4. Go-Forward Plan
    This criteria will only be used in the final round of judging and will be weighted at 20% of the total score.
  • Go-Forward Plan - Award potential
    What potential benefit could be provided with a $15K (individual team) or $30k (startup team) to continue development?
  • Go-Forward Plan - Post-award investment potential
    What potential benefit could be provided with future investment beyond the $15K (individual team) or $30k (startup team) award?
  • Go-Forward Plan - Startup
    Is there opportunity for startup company formation for an individual team's solution or expansion of an existing startup team's solution market to include the Department of Defense?
  • Go-Forward Plan - Future technical risk narrative
    How well is the future technical risk presented and addressed?

Questions? Email the hackathon manager

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