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Remote Control

Luis Larco (ECE 5th Year), Miami, Florida

When Luis Larco was a kid growing up in Peru, he says his dad often told him that he wished he could work from the beach.

“Now it’s possible,” says Larco (ECE 5th year). “You can be sitting on the beach, on the sand—you can do your work from anywhere.” That laptops have enabled Larco to work remotely—whether in his dorm room or with waves crashing in the background near his current hometown of Miami—is only one part of his innovation equation. Beyond his academic endeavors, Luis has been working on several exciting real-world projects as part of his Illinois Tech education.

One product of his work—a web-based dashboard for the Chicago Police Department—helps police to monitor crime information in the Windy City. Larco’s work is part of a larger Predictive Policing project, conducted under the supervision of Professor Miles Wernick at Illinois Tech’s Medical Imaging Research Center, in which concepts from medical imaging are used in the development of computer algorithms that analyze and predict crime. The project has produced several crime-prediction capabilities, one of which involves prediction of tomorrow’s level of crime activity based on numerous factors. Larco has translated this and other algorithmic data into a user-friendly website that can guide police officers when they assess variables in crime patterns on any given beat.

As Larco explains, “A certain number of crime events happen every day in each part of the city. Police officers often know what to expect, but if they see a spike in robberies, they will know that this is not normal.” One feature of the dashboard is that it will allow a police commander to review the data from prior days to see if something that is taking place in that moment is unusual and then make adjustments, such as directing more officers to an area that may be in need.

Larco and Wernick are both engineers who want to make an impact on real-world problems. Wernick explains that “IIT’s Medical Imaging Research Center has been focused on developing tools to improve health care, and it has been very rewarding to apply our experience in this area to assist law enforcement agencies with new tools to fight crime.”

Larco echoes Wernick’s sentiments: “When I think of engineering, I always try to think about what the needs of my community and the world are, and how I can make a change. That’s one of the things that grabbed my attention about this project.” He adds, “Chicago has been having a lot of issues with crime. What can I do to help? That is a big incentive for me to spend nights and weekends working on the project.”

2016 Update: The CPD is now using the Predictive Policing model. Luis Larco is currently an Illinois Tech alumnus working at Google.