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Recent worldwide terrorist attacks have demonstrated that the ticketing/check-in areas and security checkpoints of airports are targets of interest for terrorists.  The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has been seeking technological innovation and new approaches among students from James Madison University (JMU), Virginia. They will be tackling air travel security issues for the DHS as part of their spring semester of the Hacking 4 DefenseTM (H4D) class.

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.

“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. John Fortune, program manager for S&T’s Apex Screening at Speed Program. “The ultimate goal is to improve detection of explosives and prohibited items at the airport checkpoint.”

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. They 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.

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.