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State Department unveils Innovation in Arms Control winners

The State Department sought submissions from the public on how to use modern technology to help solve some of the world's most pressing arms control and international security problems.

Acting U.S. Undersecretary of State Rose Gottemoeller.
State Department

The State Department today unveiled three winners in its inaugural Innovation in Arms Control Challenge, a contest that tasked the public with coming up with new ideas for how to tackle arms control issues around the world.

During a Google Hangout moderated by CNET's Daniel Terdiman, Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller introduced the winners and unveiled their three projects (see video below).

In August, the State Department launched the challenge, asking the public to answer the question, "How Can the Crowd Support Arms Control Transparency Efforts?" The competition was the latest in the Obama administration's use of incentive challenges to tackle big issues.

Through this Challenge, we will collect new ideas about how innovation and technological advancement can affect the implementation of arms control, verification, and nonproliferation treaties and agreements. Can innovation bring about creative ways to prevent "loose nukes" from falling into the hands of terrorists? Can smartphone and tablet apps be created for the purpose of aiding on-site inspectors in verifying and monitoring treaty commitments? How can we use commonly available technologies in new and creative ways to support our arms control policy efforts?

Today, the State Department said the challenge attracted interest from more than 500 "potential solvers," and during the Google Hangout, Gottemoeller announced that Lovely Umayam, a graduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies at Middlebury College, had been awarded the $5,000 first prize for her idea for "Bombshelltoe." In a statement, the State Department explained that Umayam's project proposed "an online education platform that examines the intersection of culture and nuclear issues in order to facilitate better public understanding of basic nuclear and arms control-related issues."

Gottemoeller also said that there were two runner-up winners, each of whom will get a prize of $2,500 for their work. One was Allan Childers, an aerospace and defense industry consultant based in Florida, who proposed a mobile application that "provides a platform for users to connect and interact, as well as a rewards program for sharing information on various arms agreement regimes."

The other runner-up was Chip Mappus, a researcher at the Georgia Tech Research Institute who studies computational neurology and brain-machine interfaces. His submission theorized a "unique geographically based online social game for verifying treaty compliance [in which] experts post detailed tasks online, and citizens complete tasks for rewards using photographic and human report data using smartphones and/or consumer grade hardware."

Gottemoeller plans on discussing the Innovation in Arms Control Challenge, as well as other issues surrounding using technology and public input in the arms control and international security arena, during a one-on-one discussion with CNET's Terdiman this Friday at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.