Azimuth is a for-credit college course that pairs university classrooms with DoD organizations. The program equips students with the innovation methodologies they need to solve national security problems.

NSIN’s Azimuth pilot is a unique, mission-driven, service-learning course. NSIN works with universities and DoD Mission Partners to deliver a course that enables students to work on DoD challenges hands-on using innovation methodologies. This real-world problem solving allows students to hone new skills quickly and produce early-stage solutions that have the potential to create genuine impact.


Student Teams Making a Real Impact on National Security

In Azimuth courses, interdisciplinary student teams are provided with real-world national security problems sourced from DoD agencies. Teams will be instructed in innovation methodologies including Lean Startup, Design Thinking, and Systems Thinking. They will cyclically and iteratively move through the four components of the Innovation as a Learning Process framework (observe and notice, frame and reframe, imagine and design, make and experiment) while gathering information via multiple data collection and research methods. Classrooms will meet with their DoD Mission Partners weekly to exchange information and will produce an early stage solution by semester’s end.


What Azimuth Offers Participants

For all parties, the NSIN Azimuth pilot program represents a unique chance to get in on the ground floor of a totally new program. Participants will make exciting discoveries and provide feedback, enabling them to act as collaborators as NSIN continues to develop Azimuth into a permanent program.

For students, Azimuth represents an unparalleled opportunity to work closely with DoD personnel and agencies on real-world national security problems. Through this experience, students will make professional connections, gain valuable innovation skills, and create a deliverable with genuine impact.

For DoD Mission Partners, involvement in Azimuth presents a unique opportunity to connect directly with new, diverse talent and get fresh perspectives on their challenges. Mission Partners are expected to provide about an hour a week of their time over the course of the semester. By the end of the course, sponsors are provided with multiple early-stage solutions.

For University Partners, Azimuth provides a highly modular curriculum that is based on the notion that instructors know their students best and should be able to shape and tailor their courses accordingly. Through regular engagement the program also enables universities to forge lasting partnerships with their DoD Mission Partner(s) both within and outside of the classroom. This gives universities the potential to continue collaboration beyond a single semester; opening doors to partnerships on research and through other NSIN programming.


Frequently Asked Questions

Will there be an Azimuth Educator Training Course?

There will be an Educator Training course for the spring semester. The course will take place virtually.

Is there funding for Azimuth universities this academic year?

Since this academic year is a pilot program, we are unable to offer any funding.

How are Azimuth problem spaces different from problem sets seen in other NSIN programs?

Azimuth utilizes problem spaces rather than problem sets. Problem spaces are problems with wide-scopes that have multiple problems within them. An example might be: A Mission Partner is charged with creating a Drone Center of Excellence (DCoE). There is currently no definition for a DCoE, leaving the concept open for stakeholder input and beneficiary discovery. Consideration should include the ability for the DCoE to positively impact the surrounding community. The Mission Partner requires recommendations on how to best establish and utilize a Drone Center of Excellence.

The role of Azimuth students is to dig into problem spaces and see what problems lie within; there may even be competing problems within the same space. Once students have identified the problems at hand, they form temporary teams and continue discovery. Students will then form permanent teams around their desired problems: this can be done according to priority, interest, skillset, etc.

What students and disciplines are best suited to Azimuth?

Azimuth is meant to be an interdisciplinary program. The program is open to students from all academic disciplines; including those in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines, as well as those studying topics like policy, communications, business, and culture. No experience working with national security is needed. In addition to opening the program to more students, this wide aperture exposes the DoD to more thought diversity, and widens the pipeline for fresh talent to enter the defense space.

What flexibility does Azimuth offer?

Azimuth provides instructors with ample flexibility since instructors and university partners know their students and programs best. Instructors may choose to instruct the curriculum as is, utilize sections and concepts from it, or teach their own curriculum.

How does Azimuth differ from NSIN’s other offerings like Hacking for Defense (H4D) and Capstone?

The use of widely-scoped “problem spaces” as opposed to traditionally-scoped problem sets; the use of various innovation methodologies; and Mission Partner engagement in the classroom are the main ways in which Azimuth differs from H4D and Capstone. Additionally, Azimuth classrooms are paired with only one Mission Partner, creating a more streamlined classroom management experience.

What level is Azimuth intended for?

Azimuth is designed as a 300-400 level course for upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students. If you would like to deliver the course at a different level, please contact us, we are happy to discuss on a case-by-case basis.


Important Dates

NOV. 30, 2023: Deadline for University Partners to confirm decision to run an Azimuth course

DEC. 4, 2023: Deadline for DoD Mission Partners to submit problems for Azimuth

LATE-NOV. - EARLY DEC., 2023: University problem matching/distribution

JAN. 10-15, 2024: Classes begin


Questions about Azimuth?

Please direct any questions to azimuth@nsin.mil