Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Midshipmen Teach Technical Entrepreneurial Workshop in Uganda

As the Class of 2016 lined up in Alumni Hall for their graduation ceremony walkthrough, two seats in the front row were noticeably empty. Less than a week until their commissioning, MIDN Zachary Dannelly and MIDN Richard Kuzma found themselves a world away—in Kampala, Uganda.

Dannelly and Kuzma are two of the Naval Academy’s first Stamps Leadership Scholars. The Stamps Scholarship provides funds for international travel, research, and professional enrichment. This funding, and the support of the Naval Academy International Programs Office, offered MIDN Dannelly and Kuzma invaluable experiences and global context as part of their officer training at USNA.

Dannelly, a cyber operations major, used his funding to present research in Estonia and Switzerland, intern at the NSA’s sister agency, GCHQ, and visit his future graduate school, the University of Cambridge. Kuzma, a quantitative economics major, used his scholarship to conduct research in Indonesia, study in London and Brazil, and intern in the American Embassy in Rwanda. Both midshipmen focused much of their research in the field of education, and jumped at the opportunity for a capstone service project.

The average Ugandan in only 15 years old, which makes Uganda the youngest country in the world. Unfortunately, many school-aged children can be found in the streets rather than the classroom. Expensive school fees and a slowing economy force parents to send one or two children to school while their other children work to support the family. The financial limitations of these families keep many talented students from reaching their full potential.

MIDN Dannelly and Kuzma worked with an organization dedicated to nurturing high-achieving students by providing scholarships to pay for school fees and offering advanced learning opportunities.

One such opportunity comes from exposure to information communication technology (ICTs). The ICT sector is growing rapidly across the African continent as the use of cellular devices expands from the cities to the most rural areas. Pioneering entrepreneurs are using these technologies to improve quality of life, accelerate economic growth, and create jobs.

Seeking to inspire the next generation of business leaders within this emerging marketspace, Dannelly and Kuzma taught a three-part workshop, entitled “Ethical and Technical Entrepreneurship,” to a group of 35 university and upper secondary students.

A typical day started with a morning session on cybersecurity components, techniques, and defense. MIDN Dannelly taught principles from the Naval Academy freshman core course SI110: Cybersecurity Fundamentals. Lessons focused on the fastest growing ICT domains, such as wearable technologies, autonomous vehicles, and new modes of encryption.

Additionally, students learned basic programming skills through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Hour of Code (www.code.org).

To help students understand ICT within a business context, MIDN Kuzma taught lessons on supply and demand, market interactions, consumer tastes, and economic development. Kuzma drew from his previous USNA international program experiences: academic study at the London School of Economics and the Brazilian Institute of Capital Markets (IBMEC), ICT education program development for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and work with a technology startup company in Kigali, Rwanda.

The Naval Academy seeks to build leaders of character. For their workshop in Uganda, the Midshipmen sought to build entrepreneurs of character. To accomplish this goal, Kuzma and Dannelly – the Brigade Character Advisor and Midshipman Action Group President respectively – drew on the ethical leadership lessons they learned in Luce Hall. In this portion of the workshop, Ugandan students discussed leadership vs. management, Aristotle’s “golden mean,” Kant’s “categorical imperative,” and case studies ranging from President Lincoln to Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.

The students not only absorbed the information presented, but applied it in a culminating project. MIDN Dannelly and Kuzma challenged students to build the framework for a technology startup company. University students acted as the CEOs of the companies, building a team and defining the roles of the secondary students. Teams followed Simon Sinek’s framework for business development, Start with Why. Students first identified a problem within Kampala, found a technical solution, and developed a business strategy to sell their solution to potential investors.

The resulting products are described here:


  • An unmanned drone designed for search and rescue efforts after natural disasters.
  • Poor infrastructure increases the response time of first responders. 
  • SaveBot will provide an understanding of the crisis by sending encrypted communications to First Responders before they arrive on scene.


  • A biometric-validated authentication mechanism used to access confidential materials.
  • Corruption and lack of accountability among government and business leaders robs Uganda of millions of dollars each year.
  • Leaders with access to secure systems would be required to wear SecureWatch to identify their transactions on these networks thereby maintaining nonrepudiation (transparency).

Phone Safe 

  • An application designed to protect data and discourage theft of phones.
  • Phones are typically stolen for the information they contain or their resale value.
  • Phone Safe activates audio and visual alarms on the stolen phone, and allows the user to remotely erase their data.

Digital Health 

  • A network for accessing doctor consultation without meeting face to face.
  • Doctors from around the world sign in to a virtual call center to answer questions about symptoms and treatments via SMS, calls, or smartphone application. 
  • Users are given recommendations for close medical facilities and best medications.
  • Use of the service is free to users, revenues come from advertisements paid for by local medical facilities and pharmaceutical companies.
  • Data about recurring symptoms will be shared with multilateral organizations like the United Nations and World Health Organization, enabling faster reaction time to combat disease outbreaks.

The most incredible aspect of these innovative products was the backgrounds of their developers. Many students came from Uganda’s most impoverished areas, had never used a smartphone, and were the first in their family on track to attend university. MIDN Dannelly and Kuzma visited the students’ homes to meet their families and understand the adversity each student faced. Parents poured appreciation and gratitude upon the midshipmen for their work, but it was the midshipmen who were humbled by the sacrifice of these parents.

Whether these students bring their companies to fruition, or develop into the doctors, lawyers, and engineers they aspire to be, their future success is well worth the small sacrifice of two empty seats in the front row of graduation practice.


  1. I think it's great that you help Ugandan students in acquiring of basic programming knowledge and skills through teaching and learning. Maybe it will motivate them not to buy essay papers on supply and demand, market interactions, consumer tastes, and economic development.

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  3. How does this contribute to graduating leaders dedicated to careers in the naval service. Is this the best use of their time to learn to be professional Naval Officers and Marine Corps officers - at taxpayer expense - and who are expected to be able to fight their ships and units after graduation?

  4. Wow. This perspective is unbelievably selfish and pious. YES, it is the best use of their time and a much much better use of "taxpayers expense" than thousands of other misuses of our money that is often squandered or unaccounted for in America. These two incredibly accomplished, intelligent and humble midshipmen ARE Naval Officers that have accepted the challenge to return the investment made in their behalf, to those much less fortunate but eager to be difference makers in their own right. Thank goodness these midshipmen will be leading America in the years ahead in the world of Cyber Safety than someone like yourself whose small mindedness and ignorance would leave America increasingly more vulnerable. Find something in your life that is more noble and beneficial to the universe than your smallminded perspective of mankind and of your obviously limited worldview.


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