ALERT Brings Together Stakeholders for Virtual Technology Showcase
Like many events scheduled for 2020, the ALERT Technology Showcase had to be postponed due to the pandemic. As operations shifted online, ALERT leadership saw an opportunity to expand upon the ALERT Technology Showcase to better demonstrate the impact and transition of its research to the homeland security enterprise.
Leading up to the showcase, ALERT launched the SPARC (Seminars to Promote ALERT Research and Collaboration) webinar series—giving attendees a preview and deep-dive into some of the Center’s technology solutions—and shifted the ALERT Technology Showcase, which is typically held in person, to a fully virtual format. The newly imagined two-day event was successfully held on April 21 – 22 and brought together 137 stakeholders from across academia, industry, and government for presentations, demonstrations, and panel discussions that highlighted ALERT’s many research accomplishments, technologies, and collaborations.
“Shifting to the virtual format was a difficult challenge,” said Michael Silevitch, ALERT Director. “I want to commend the effort of the entire ALERT team to accomplish this important task. Their efforts went above and beyond the normal preparation for this type of event.”
The keynote address on the first day of the showcase was delivered by LaFonda Sutton-Burke, the Port Director for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) at Los Angeles International Airport, who presented at ALERT’s inaugural CBP-ADEPT Workshop in 2018. On the second day, the keynote address was provided by Rebecca Medina, Director of the Office of University Programs at the Department of Homeland Security.
Over the course of the ALERT Technology Showcase, attendees observed nine technology demos, including:
- Simulated Air Cargo Skids Task Order – Presented by Carl Crawford, Csuptwo LLC.
- CLASP (Correlating Luggage and Specific Passengers) – Presented by Deanna Beirne, Northeastern University; David Castañón, Boston University; Octavia Camps, Northeastern University; Henry Medeiros, Marquette University; and Rich Radke, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
- Autonomous Raman System for the Analysis of Trace Residues on Surfaces – Presented by Eric Miller, Tufts University; and Romain Blanchard, Pendar Technologies.
- UAV-Based Sensors for the Detection of Threats – Presented by Otto Gregory, University of Rhode Island.
- Tool and Method for Simulating Explosives Particle Adhesion – Presented by Steve Beaudoin, Purdue University
- Distributed, Low-Cost Multi-Sensor Detection, Imaging and Analysis Network – Presented by Scott Howard, University of Notre Dame
- Astrophysics Multi-View CT – Presented by David Castañón, Boston University; and Brett Tally, Astrophysics Inc.
- Zero Power Infrared Wireless Sensor Node in Collaboration with United Technology Corporation (UTC) – Presented by Matteo Rinaldi, Northeastern University; Zhenyun Qian, Northeastern University; and Sungho (Ryan) Kang, Northeastern University.
- SCHMOO (Safe Control of Hazardous Materials or Others Onsite) – Presented by Jimmie Oxley, University of Rhode Island.
In addition to the technology demos, the event also included networking sessions in virtual breakout rooms where participants could approach presenters with follow-up questions and connect with one another, as well as two engaging panel discussions on the following topics:
- ALERT Alumni Success Stories – Moderated by Carey Rappaport, Northeastern University and featuring David Benirschke, University of Notre Dame; Limor Martin, SeeTrue AI; Alex Showalter-Bucher, DarkPumpkin AI (formerly with MIT Lincoln Lab); and Melissa Sweat, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).
- ALERT as an Emeritus Center – Moderated by Michael Silevitch, Northeastern University and featuring Jennifer Dy, Northeastern University; John Fortune, Department of Homeland Security; Matthew Merzbacher, Alameda County Community Food Bank; Fernando Quivira, Engineering Consultant; and Carey Rappaport, Northeastern University.
While in-person events are generally preferred, the virtual format of the ALERT Technology Showcase resulted in a turnout on par with that of ALERT’s previous showcase, but with greater flexibility and convenience for attendees who could log into the event from anywhere. ALERT plans to hold its next event, the ADSA23 Workshop on “Autonomous Security Systems” virtually as well—splitting the conference across three sessions (11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT) on May 4, 11, and 25.