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Scavenger hunt activity helps START team assess capability of mobile radiation detectors

Every day, we are surrounded by non-harmful levels of natural radiation coming from common household items like water softener, kitty litter, and building materials such as marble and granite. In order to test the use of small, portable radiation detectors, UMD students and faculty recently participated in a scavenger hunt game to map this natural background radiation.

The activity was designed by researchers from the Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division at START and is part of the Mobile Radiation Detectors: Threat Perception and Device Acceptance project.  Over 60 students participated in the game that served as a test deployment of these mobile radiation devices.  Using a set of clues, each team was directed to specific locations on campus, covering an area of five square miles across multiple terrains on campus.  The top eight winners of the scavenger hunt received prizes for their participation that included iPads and Kindle HDs.  This successful deployment of the mobile detectors and the information collected during the event will guide future efforts on the adoption of these mobile radiation detectors.

 “The scavenger hunt complemented earlier phases of a larger project that is oriented toward discerning the likelihood of participant adoption of the radiation detectors,” said Project Manager Michelle Jacome. “This game was designed to include a variety of professional, demographic and attitudinal attributes.  This way, the study could gauge the functionality of the device in a populated environment akin to the urban setting in which the device could be used.”

Jacome also emphasized how advantageous it is to have the University community available as a resource for testing new technology.

“The University of Maryland provided a great environment for this type of deployment.  The participation of students was key in the success of the exercise.  Their participation and the area covered while walking provided the team with valuable information regarding the adoption of the technology as well as new ideas for future larger deployments.”