Hidden Springs resident and University of Miami junior Kyle Fontaine participates in ground-breaking research and is published in Science magazine.
During the past decade, science has made great strides in its ability to predict natural catastrophic events like hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes. The advanced warnings often save many lives and help minimize damage. However, predicting planned terrorists attacks is a much more challenging task, requiring massive amounts of manpower, surveillance and undercover work.
Kyle Fontaine, son of Hidden Springs residents Paul and Donna Fontaine, was one of the students tapped by Johnson to participate in the intensive research.
“It was a great experience,” said Kyle, who currently is a junior at UM. “We met every day in a little classroom to discuss our ideas.”
Once the team figured out what direction to proceed with, they spent the day researching and plugging statistics into the developing model. Three of the team members specialized in physics and computer science. According to Kyle, they were the ones who did the heavy math work behind the mathematical models.
Kyle, who graduated from Dr. Phillips High School’s Center for International Studies magnet program in 2009, partnered with another student to analyze the social science aspect of the project, such as casualty numbers, troops stationed in the Middle East, and other data that could be factored into the overall equation.
“I specifically did a lot of work with creating current timelines using lists of thousands of events relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and important world events, as well,” Kyle said.
The information he gathered was used to prove that changes in casualty time intervals and the intensity of attacks were not necessarily caused by external events. In essence, the research and subsequent mathematical model predicts the time lapse between insurgent attacks based on their ability to adapt to the other side’s strategies.
“At first, I felt like I was going to be useless next to the computer and math guys, but I think I did some significant and important work,” Kyle said. “I learned a lot about academia and how to think in terms of real world research, and how creativity and connecting the dots can be two of the most important life skills in this line of work.”
In addition to targeting terrorists, the research can be applied to a widerange of processes, such as the immune system fighting disease or a computer system facing sophisticated cyberattacks.
The study, titled Pattern in Escalations in Insurgent and Terrorist Activity, was published in the July issue of Science magazine, with Kyle and his fellow researchers named in the publication.
“I never thought we had a hope of being published in Science magazine, because the work was done by undergraduates,” Kyle said.
Though the team members were paid for their time, Kyle indicated that the money was not what had motivated him. In fact, he later said he would have paid to do the research, because it was such a great experience.
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