Washington, DC – Students from James Madison University (JMU) will be tackling air travel security issues for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) as part of their spring semester of the Hacking for Defense (H4D) class.
“Recent worldwide terrorist attacks have demonstrated that the ticketing/check-in areas and security checkpoints of airports are targets of interest for our adversaries,” said William N. Bryan, DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “This is a critical issue, and we are trying to tackle it several different ways. Focusing the bright minds of students on the problem may lead to fresh new approaches.”
The H4D team will look for innovative approaches that will enable the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to be able to associate passengers with their personal belongings. This can be beneficial in several ways, such as supporting TSA’s principles of risk-based screening, reducing false alarm rates to help passenger lines move faster, and reducing theft and lost items at checkpoints.
“We have access to some of the nation’s top students who are passionate about solving real-world problems,” said Dr. John Fortune, program manager for S&T’s Apex Screening at Speed Program, who will work directly with JMU. “Students have come up with novel solutions working through the H4D program, and we’re excited to see what they accomplish.”
The H4D class will engage with stakeholders throughout the aviation security industry and will develop a website to publish their research and facilitate student research networks across different institutions. Throughout the semester, the students will be telling the story about their project and will capitalize on the Lean LaunchPad Methodology, which is based on querying and learning from customers, to rapidly iterate and ultimately deliver a concept to S&T that meets TSA requirements. At the end of the program, S&T will evaluate the students’ concept and identify opportunities for further refinement and possible transition into an operational capability to enhance the traveler’s experience.
“This could make the screening process more integrated, efficient, and secure, resulting in fewer false alarms, pat-downs, and bag searches for passengers,” said Dr. Fortune. “The ultimate goal is to improve detection of explosives and prohibited items at the airport checkpoint. We are looking forward to the opportunity to engage with JMU’s H4D class to help achieve these goals.”
The Apex Screening at Speed Program is pursuing transformative research and development activities that support a future vision for increasing security effectiveness from curb to gate while dramatically reducing wait times and improving the passenger experience.
Hacking 4 Defense is an education initiative that has a very good track record for delivering innovative solutions for complex problems to defense, intelligence and security communities by applying design thinking and the Lean Startup model (an agile model that aims to shorten the product development process). These communities compete to be selected by submitting problem statements to be solved by H4D student teams across the country.
James Madison University, located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, is one of a select group of universities in the United States participating in H4D.