(Computational Linguistic) Olympiad Trials Start Soon
High school students across the country to compete
View a video of a computational linguistics challenge.
Early next month, high school students from across the United States and Canada will begin the first rounds of the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO). Although the competition aims to identify students to represent the United States at the 2009 International Linguistics Olympiad, it is also a chance for young people to explore their interests in linguistics, math or computer science and pick up some useful new skills.
During the first round of NACLO, which is held around the country and also online, students are given a number of challenging computational linguistics puzzles. One question might offer, for example, a few sentences in a rarely-spoken language along with their English translations. The students would then be given sentences in just the foreign language and would then need to offer possible translations.
Aside from being a fun intellectual challenge, the Olympiad mimics the skills used by researchers and scholars in the field of computational linguistics, which is increasingly essential for the United States and other countries. Using computational linguistics, these experts can develop automated technologies such as translation software that cut down on the time and training needed to work with other languages, or software that automatically produces informative English summaries of documents in other languages or answer questions about information in these documents.
In an increasingly global economy where businesses operate across borders and languages, having a strong pool of computational linguists is a competitive advantage. With threats emerging from different parts of the world, developing computational linguistics skills has also been identified as a vital component of national defense in the 21st century.
Because of the growing importance of this intriguing field, the National Science Foundation initiated NACLO, and together with major contributions from the North American chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Google, Carnegie-Mellon University's Leonard Gelfand Center for Outreach, and the University of Michigan, helped fund NACLO's activities this year, along with other support from Cambridge University Press, Just Systems Evans Research, M*Modal, Powerset and Vivisimo.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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