N. American Computational Linguistics Olympiad at UMBC

January 7th, 2009

If you are a high school or middle school student who is interested in
computers and also in languages, you should consider participating in the 2009 North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO). This might be the first step on a path that could lead to your helping to create the next Google!

NACLO is a competition for middle-school and high-school students focused on solving problems involving linguistics and computational linguistics. WOrking the problems only requires keen analytical ability and good problem-solving skills — no prior background in linguistics, foreign languages or computer science is required.

NACLO consists of two rounds — an initial round on February 4 open to all students and a subsequent invitational round on March 11 for contestants who have advanced from the first. Winners of the second round will be invited to participate in the International Linguistics Olympiad. Last year, two US teams went to Bulgaria to compete in the sixth International Linguistics Olympiad and gold medals in individual and team events.

Support for NACLO is provided by Google, the Associaton for Computational Linguistics, and the National Science Foundation, which said in an August press release :

“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 important 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 vital to national defense in the 21st century.” (src)

Students can participate at the NACLO site at UMBC, which is sponsored by the UMBC Institute for Language in Information Technology. Check out their poster and sample problem If you like this kind of puzzle and others like it, sign up to be part this exciting competition.

Students should register online by January 20. Late registrations may be accepted up to February 3 if space is available. The UMBC NACLO event will take place on Wednesday February 4 in room 312 of the University Center. For more information, contact one of the local organizers: Professors Marjorie McShane (marge@umbc.edu), Sergei Nirenburg (sergei@umbc.edu) and Margaret A. Russell (margaret.a.russell@gmail.com).