Winners announced in $1.5 million Passenger Screening Algorithm Challenge

The following entrants rounded out the top eight teams and will each receive $100,000:

  Fourth Place: Zach Teed, Hudson, Ohio, for a solution that works to define threats using a location-based model

  Fifth Place: Oleg Trott, San Diego, California, fused 2D and 3D data sources with automated image augmentation to improve model accuracy

  Sixth Place: Halla Yang, Wilmette, Illinois, and Phillip Adkins, Chicago, Illinois, designed an approach that automatically segmented the image before running models trained on specific cropped images

  Seventh Place: Suchir Balaji, Sunnyvale, California, used synthetic data and cross-image analysis to produce more robust predictions

  Eighth Place: Michael Avendi, Irvine, Caloifornia, used separately trained models and random image augmentation for best results

Congress requires all person screening technology to have automated target recognition (ATR) capability. ATR enables passenger screening equipment to maintain privacy while maintaining security effectiveness. “The Passenger Screening Algorithm Challenge was an innovative way to challenge a broad community to solve a difficult problem,” said Dr. John Fortune, DHS S&T Apex Screening at Speed Program Manager. “Better ATR algorithms directly contribute to the passenger experience, reducing the need for pat-downs and accelerating the screening process. Through the prize competition, we’re getting better results than we ordinarily might see, by connecting with very smart people who have great ideas but might not typically be part of a Government proposal process.”

The prize competition was run through the Kaggle data science platform and conducted in two stages. The first stage gave six months for entrants, or solvers, to train and build automated threat detection algorithms using a dataset of 1,000 volunteer passenger images in a variety of formats. The second stage was to evaluate those models against a larger holdout set of images for validating algorithm performance. The top eight ranked Solvers at the end of the second stage were eligible to receive prize money.

S&T notes that these algorithms will complement existing systems funded under the DHS S&T Apex Screening at Speed Program, which is pursuing transformative R&D activities that support a future vision for increasing security effectiveness while dramatically reducing wait times and improving the passenger experience. The competition supports DHS S&T and TSA’s goals of increased security effectiveness and rapidly responding to evolving threats.

The next steps will be to conduct test and evaluation of the algorithms with additional image sets. “We hope to continue to engage the combined expertise of our winners to improve the winning solutions and ultimately see them used in airport security checkpoints,” said Fortune.