First Place Nationwide: NU student project diverts terrorism recruits

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Norwich University students have won the national P2P (Peer to Peer) Challenging Extremism competition. Facilitated by EdVenture Partners, the competition was sponsored this year by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, with support from Facebook. The team placed first out of 44 teams nationwide.

The Norwich P2P team brings a diversity of perspective to a global problem (clockwise from left): Professor Travis Morris, advisor; Naomi Rinaldo ’19 of Middlefield, Conn.; Jacob Freeman ’17 of Wake Forest, N.C.; Emran Babak ’20 of Kabul, Afghanistan; Akshay Awasthi ’17 of New Delhi, India; Yushan Xireli ’18 of Ürümqi, China.

The Norwich P2P team brings a diversity of perspective to a global problem (clockwise from left): Professor Travis Morris, advisor; Naomi Rinaldo ’19 of Middlefield, Conn.; Jacob Freeman ’17 of Wake Forest, N.C.; Emran Babak ’20 of Kabul, Afghanistan; Akshay Awasthi ’17 of New Delhi, India; Yushan Xireli ’18 of Ürümqi, China.

Last fall, under the guidance of criminal justice professor and NU Peace and War Center Director Travis Morris, the student team built the Extremist Mimicry Interception Tool (EMIT). An online campaign that mimics the tactics of terror-recruiting efforts, EMIT is designed to attract 18- to 35-year-olds already at risk for recruitment. They are diverted to a site where former members of terror groups tell stories about how they got out. EMIT has hit a nerve: In its first month, the site attracted (and survived) 4,800 attempted attacks.

Along with three other finalists, the Norwich P2P team presented EMIT on February 1 to a panel of government officials and other leading experts in Washington D.C. At the end of the day, they learned they had won. The students brought home $5,000 to continue their work countering violent extremism.

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