UCF research could help airport security screeners become more efficient

ORLANDO, Nov. 25 Flying home for the holidays could become safer and more convenient in a few years thanks to University of Central Florida research aimed at improving training for security screeners.

With a $210,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, UCF researchers are studying different learning techniques to understand how to best train people to pick out guns, knives and other threatening objects as they pass through airport X-ray machines.

The researchers' findings, along with results of similar studies at other universities, will help the FAA and Transportation Security Administration determine the best procedures to train new screeners. The TSA oversees the hiring and training of screeners.

The results may eventually lead to improved safety and more convenience for travelers, said Stephen Fiore, a scientist at UCF's Institute for Simulation and Training.

"Travelers want to be safer without being inconvenienced very much," he said. "If screeners are experts at this task, they'll be more accurate and also are likely to be faster."

Increasing the pace at which screeners accurately work can be especially valuable over holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, when airport lines can be long. AAA has projected that 335,000 Floridians will travel by air this weekend.

In an early phase of the project, which began late last year, Fiore and his colleagues had 39 undergraduate students identify threatening objects in computerized X-ray images the researchers created. They were trying to see if students are more likely to identify a threatening object in a simulated suitcase if they were first shown the object in an uncluttered X-ray image or in an image that included many other items.

Results so far show that some students those who are good at visualizing and mentally rotating images learned better with the mostly full simulated suitcases, while others learned better when the suitcases showed o

Contact: Chad Binette
University of Central Florida

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