Tsunami Warning System: A Case Study of Intelligent Agents in Action

Summary This case study analyzes a tsunami warning system (TWS) from the perspective of an intelligent agent, the Tsunami Activity Reporter (TWR). Students receive a description of the TWR and an overview of a warning system from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, then design an intelligent agent using the PEAS (performance measure, environment, actuators, and sensors) framework. Students draft answers to questions as a homework assignment and then collaborate in small groups to design an agent which each group then presents to the class.
Topics Agent architecture, design and impact; environments; tsunami warning systems
Audience Introduction to AI. Can be adapted to K-12 and Advanced AI and Systems Engineering courses.

This is an introductory assignment taking three hours for an intro to AI student to complete (including reading, research, and completing the assignment).

Strengths TWS reinforces concepts of agent architecture, environment properties, and critical thinking skills while presenting a real-world and familiar context for problem solving. It appeals to students who prefer to start with abstractions, models and the big picture. Students find the tsunami warning system interesting and come to appreciate the complexity of the problem to be solved and the tradeoffs inherent in various agent architectures.
Weaknesses Implementing a complete tsunami warning system prototype can easily become a semester-long project.
Dependencies Knowledge of intelligent agents, agent architectures, properties of environments, internal evaluation functions, utility functions, and external performance measurements, (as found in Russell and Norvig chapter 2) and some familiarity with tsunamis and tsunami warning systems are required.  The assignment is effective as a written homework assignment and class activity alone. Rule-based tools such as JESS (http://herzberg.ca.sandia.gov/) or CLIPS (http://clipsrules.sourceforge.net/) provide a good framework for developing an implementation.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service provides engaging and easily accessible domain knowledge on tsunamis (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/brochures/tsunami.htm). Advanced students can incorporate goal hierarchies into the decision system or collaborate with students from Earth Sciences and Geology to create a realistic prototype. The basic structure of the assignment is easily adapted to other domains.

Given a working prototype written implement in CLIPS, students in a CS0 course can add rules or experiment with various strategies for firing rules (e.g., breadth-first vs. depth first). Students from systems engineering can use the case study as a starting point for analyzing sensor/software interfaces.

Materials Tsunami assignment
Tsunami assignment solution
Attachment - Tsunami Warning System Description
Teaching notes
Follow-on Assignment - Dynamic Disease Reporter
Follow-on Assignment - Dynamic Disease Reporter Solution