Case Study

GTRI Researcher Chip Mappus Named a Winner in State Department Contest

Published: May 29, 2013

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A researcher with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) presented a unique solution in a U.S. State Department contest on tackling global arms control issues.

Rudolph “Chip” Mappus, a senior research scientist in the Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems Laboratory (ATAS) was named as one of three winners in the State Department’s first Innovation in Arms Control Challenge. Participants entering the competition sought to use commonly available technologies to support arms control policy efforts.

Acting U.S. Undersecretary of State Rose Gottemoeller introduced the winners and their projects during a Google Hangout moderated by CNET. More than 500 participants entered the competition.

Mappus proposed a geographically based online social game for verifying treaty compliance. In the game, participants would complete tasks posted by experts for rewards using photographic and human report data through their smartphones or computers.

“I heard about the competition from a co-worker, who saw it on,” Mappus said. “The Innocentive site is one of many ideation repositories today and hosts a wide array of competitive events for solutions, ranging from how to bring the crowd to bear on challenging problems to chemical solutions for rapidly decomposing volatile compounds to biodegradable elements.”

By nature of the competition, the challenge was geared toward how to use citizens to assist in the verification of treaty compliance. “Many people now have smartphones that are GPS enabled with additional image, video and texting capabilities,” Mappus said. “Just as online games take advantage of these capabilities, my solution was to form an online community like those based around the idea of treaty compliance.”

Mappus’ solution would start with experts posting treaty verification tasks online, and the public, via an online community, could complete these tasks for points and rewards in the game. “Of course, the tasks would need to be safe and accessible by the public,” he said. “And the countries and governments in question would need to demonstrate an openness with the information.”

As many treaty stipulations do not require experts to verify compliance, the public would be able to get involved and earn “points” while doing so.

Mappus is a member of the Behavioral Modeling and Computational Social Sciences group at GTRI. The group is broadly interested in understanding online social networks from tracing and modeling influence to systems for intelligently parsing online content.

His research interests lie at the intersection of machine learning and neuroscience. His doctoral thesis focused on statistical inference of brain-computer interface signals in control paradigms. This work focused on machine learning methods for finding relevant features in EEG and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) signals corresponding to spatial reasoning tasks in the parietal lobe of the brain.

Mappus and Allan Childers, an aerospace/defense industry consultant from Florida, both won runner-up prizes of $2,500. Lovely Umayam, a graduate student in Monterey, Calif., was awarded first prize of $5,000.

The Innovation in Arms Control Challenge is just one resource that the State Department is creating opportunities for public participation. By using existing technology, the department hopes to leverage crowdsourcing and connected individuals to approach 21st-century security challenges.