IARPA Morgoth's Crown Challenge

Can you build the best algorithm that predicts how the chemical spectrum of a substance changes in different molecular environments?

Imagine if there was a way to identify an unknown substance in real-time, by simply pointing a scanner at the surface in which the substance is located. Chemicals, or areas containing potential chemical residues, could be scanned at standoff range and the substance identified on the spot. Such a development would enable expedited results in time sensitive situations and “one hundred percent” screening for security or process control. The Modeling of Reflectance Given Only Transmission of High-concentration Spectra for Chemical Recognition Over Widely-varying Environments (MORGOTH’S CROWN) Challenge seeks development of algorithms that would help accomplish just that!

This summer, Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is excited to conduct the MORGOTH’S CROWN Challenge. The Challenge invites participants from around the world to develop algorithms to predict changes in a chemical’s infrared (IR) spectrum caused by changes in its molecular environment. Participants will join a global community working to benchmark research and foster innovation in IR spectral prediction through crowdsourcing.

The MORGOTH’S CROWN Challenge is related to our Standoff Illuminator for Measuring Absorbance and Reflectance Infrared Light Signatures (SILMARILS) program, which works to improve real-time methods for standoff detection and identification of chemical residues on surfaces using active infrared spectroscopy with spectral, physical, and chemical information to yield hardware and software models that are fast and accurate.

IARPA is conducting the MORGOTH’S CROWN Challenge to invite the broader research community of industry, academia, and individual code wizards to participate in a convenient, efficient, and non-contractual way.

IARPA’s use of a crowdsourcing approach to stimulate breakthroughs in science and technology also supports the White House’s Strategy for American Innovation, as well as government transparency and efficiency. The goals and objectives of this Challenge are to:

  • Promote research and enable more comprehensive and robust detection libraries for both passive and active standoff infrared chemical detection
  • Encourage various communities to develop and enhance computational models to accurately predict spectral signatures of a given substance and substrate combination in complex environments
  • Foster innovation through crowdsourcing and move beyond current research limitations for algorithms and models enhancing infrared chemical detection
  • Cultivate and sustain an ongoing collaborative community dedicated to this technology and research

Participants will be given spectra of both clean surfaces (substrates) and chemicals of interest in their bulk form. They will also be given the spectra of a set of training coupons with different combinations of substrates with trace chemical residues on them (including different particle sizes, crystal structures, and mass loadings). These training coupons will show how the spectrum of a trace residue differs from both the bulk chemical and the substrate spectra due to the complex interplay at the level between scattered light and molecular structure. Participants are asked to generate an algorithm to predict what the spectra of DIFFERENT combinations of chemicals and substrates would look like. The evaluation phase will judge participants’ algorithms based on a number of accuracy variables related to prediction of the correct sample coupon spectra.

During the Challenge, solvers will work on their algorithm and track their performance against other competitors on a leaderboard. Participants will improve their algorithm throughout the Challenge duration.


MORGOTH'S CROWN Challenge will have two tracks: a prize track and a non-prize track. The non-prize track is open to SILMARILS Performers and Affiliates and other non-qualifying participants. Winners will be announced for each track, but only those winners in the prize track will be eligible for cash prizes from a total prize purse of $50,000. Winners from both tracks will be publicly recognized by IARPA in the final announcements based on their performance. Throughout the challenge, Topcoder's online leaderboard will display your rankings and accomplishments, giving you various opportunities to have your work viewed and appreciated by stakeholders from industry, government, and academic communities, regardless of the track in which you qualify.

For full participant eligibility requirements and official rules, visit Topcoder.com.

Register for the Challenge here.

If you don’t have a Topcoder account, you will need to create one to participate in the Challenge.

Teams will need to register by August 2017, while independent solvers can register through the end of the Challenge.

Learn more here