In addition to the Coastal Resilience Center’s participation in the annual DHS Summer Research Team program, CRC researchers continued their CRC-sponsored summer exchanges in 2019, while also sending students to the 2019 Centers of Excellence Summit.
Winners at DHS Center summit
In July, the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate, Office of University Programs’ nine Centers of Excellence (COE) convened in Arlington, Va., for the annual Centers of Excellence Summit. The two-day event, which featured panel discussions on Homeland Security priorities and the COE-led Innovation Showcase, was also a stage for student presentations and collaborative competitions.
Maurice Hanns and William Case, students from CRC partner Johnson C. Smith University, participated on separate teams for the Grand Challenge, a core student activity at the Summit. The Grand Challenge was a “hackathon”-style contest where teams of students developed innovative solutions in response to an emerging DHS challenge. This year’s challenge to the student teams: “Identify an emerging threat to homeland security posed by Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and develop a strategy to counter it.”
“I gained an understanding of what challenges DHS has to figure out when the problems are unknown,” Hanns said. Students were pressed to develop their solutions to the challenge in just 36 hours, and then present their strategy to a panel of homeland security experts.
“We focused on the threat of unidentified UAVs crossing the southern border,” said Case, whose team’s in-depth solution for a specific border region won the Grand Challenge’s second-place prize.
“I was plugged into a network of people that I would not have met otherwise,” Case said after accepting his team’s prize. “It reaffirmed my belief that even though my course of study is technical in nature, my greatest asset is leadership and navigating personalities.”
Both students said the COE Summit was an important networking and career development opportunity for CRC students from Minority Serving Institution partners.
“I was able to be around others who liked to problem solve on a daily basis,” Hanns said. He hopes to continue working on the challenge topic after returning to JCSU.
To see more CRC student work from this summer, watch the NCSU-FAMU Summer Research Team video.
SUMREX and other summer exchanges
The SUMmer Research EXperience, or SUMREX, was held for the fourth year, with students from CRC-funded education programs visiting the campus sites of CRC research projects. This year, two students from a CRC-funded education program at Tougaloo College led by Dr. Meherun Laiju – senior Courtney Thomas, a sociology and social work major, and junior Madison Bibbs, a psychology major – spent the summer with Old Dominion University researcher Dr. Wie Yusuf.
Thomas and Bibbs joined the ODU team in community outreach efforts, participating in workshops, meeting with officials from the city of Hampton (Va.) and surveying Virginia Beach residents in partnership with students from Virginia Tech University. During their SUMREX experience, they also participated in several research workshops on survey research design, data analysis, community resilience and health effects of climate change.
More about the students at ODU can be found at https://sites.wp.odu.edu/odudhscrcproject/.
Also through SUMREX, the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez sent two students – rising senior Ihan J. Acevedo González and rising junior Robert Ethan Lewis – from Prof. Ismael Pagán-Trinidad’s CRC-funded education program to Oregon State University to participate in research led by Dr. Dan Cox. This marked the fourth consecutive year of exchange between these programs.
In an additional summer exchange program in June, 14 students and four faculty members from CRC partner Johnson C. Smith University visited North Carolina State University (NCSU)’s Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering.
The JCSU students shared three presentations about summer research on topics like traffic contraflow, disease outbreaks and tornado characteristics, and on methods including fuzzy inference systems and data mining. About 30 students and faculty from NCSU attended the presentations, noted the connections with their ongoing research and asked questions about how the summer projects can be continued into the future.
Then three NC State faculty members, included PI Dr. Casey Dietrich, shared presentations about their research, ranging from agent-based models of environmental systems, to computer vision techniques to inform construction, to predictive models for coastal flooding.