Viterbi News Article: Team and Student Poster Prizes for USC at DHS DC Gathering

March 24, 2009

ARMOR system receives commendation, as does new IRIS system for Federal Air Marshals

The Viterbi School had an excellent showing at the Third Annual Department of Homeland Security University Summit meeting, held March 17-19 in Washington D.C.

Prizewinner: Jason Tsai with his blue-ribbon poster

Graduate student Jason Tsai received the best student poster award for his presentation of IRIS, a program being perfected for use by Federal Air Marshals to randomize their security operations.

IRIS is a follow-on to ARMOR, the system now in daily use at Los Angeles International Airport to create schedules that cannot be predicted by onlookers.

ARMOR, and the USC-based Center for Risk Analysis and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) which funded it received a special commendation at the meeting. 

The commendation reads:

"The DHS S&T Office of University Programs recognizes CREATE for the outstanding contributions to the security of our nation that the Assistant for Randomized Monitoring over Routes (ARMOR) has made to the police operations at the Los Angeles World Airports."

Milind Tambe, who worked with CREATE to build ARMOR, which also recently received a special commendation from the city of Los Angeles,  worked with Tsai on the new IRIS system, as did postdoc Chris Kiekintveld and grad student/programmer Shyamsunder Rathi.

According to the poster Tsai presented, "IRIS uses a game-theoretic approach to analyze the risks and costs of the flight safety problem to develop randomized coverage strategies to assist the FAMS. We model the problem as a Stackelberg game, with FAMS as leaders that commit to a flight coverage strategy and terrorists as followers that attempt to attack a flight with full knowledge of the coverage strategy. The project includes algorithmic advances in game theory as well as implementation innovations that are necessary to create a viable scheduling assistant."

Independent from the poster presentation, Tambe's team used the visit to the capital to deliver semi-final software to the air marshals, who will now begin testing it.

Tsai came to the Viterbi School from Harvard University, where he won his undergraduate degreee in economics. " With an Economics background, working on a game-theoretic project like [IRIS] was a natural first project to join."

See also: 2009