2013Q3 Reports: Linguistics Olympiads 2012

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Report on NACLO

NACLO is the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (http://www.naclo.cs.cmu.edu). It is one of about 25 national lingusitics Olympiads in various countries, whose winners compete in the annual International Linguistics Olympiad (http://www.ioling.org).

Although there are many countries that have linguistics Olympiads, we are reporting here only on NACLO because it is the only one that truly focuses on computational linguistics in addition to linguistics.

NACLO is open to high school and middle school students in the US and Canada. There is no prerequisite knowledge or entrance requirement.

NACLO program committee activities: Program Chair Dragomir Radev collected 40+ problem ideas from an international program committee of 28 people. The problems were reviewed by other program committee members and were tested by college students. Eight problems were selected for the open round of NACLO. Three of the eight problems were computational, covering Huffman Coding, context free grammars, and a type of two dimensional grid for representing phrase structure in a way that disambiguates attachment ambiguities. Six problems were selected for the invitational round, two of which were computational, covering an Eliza-like chat bot and decision trees. The remaining problems are implicitly computational in that they exercise pattern recognition, establishing and pruning a large search space of possible solutions, and multi-step analytical thinking.

NACLO participation: Over 1400 students particpated in NACLO this year. The students participate at about 45 university host sites, or at their high schools. Each university host site does local outreach and publicity.

NACLO funding: NAACL has become a regular funder of NACLO, contributing $5000 per year for the last few years. The Linguistic Society of America also contributes $5000 per year. This year, the Feldberg Family Foundation used their personal frequent flyer miles to purchase plane tickets for ten NACLO participants to attend the IOL. (The Feldberg Family Foundation also endows a chair for James Pustejovsky, one of the NACLO organizers.) Brandeis University Computer Science Department also donated $5000 this year. There were also many smaller donations from individuals and businesses.

NACLO funding is used for maintaining the web site, paying graders and problem testers, and travel to the international contest.

NACLO organizational plans: NACLO plans to enter into a three way letter of understanding with LSA and NAACL, outlining the resources that each group will contribute including funding and publicity among other things.

NACLO requests that universities establish internships for NACLO graduates while they are in high school or when they are in college. This will help encourage them to enter our field. CMU's Language Technologies Institute has offered summer internships to at least five NACLO graduates and finds them to be surprisingly productive for their age (18-20 years old). Contact Lori Levin (lsl@cs.cmu.edu) for more information.

NACLO Organizers:

Mary Jo Bensasi, Administrative Assistant, Carnegie Mellon University Adam Hesterberg, Assistant Coach, Ph.D. Student, Math, MIT Lori Levin, Co-chair, Carnegie Mellon University Patrick Littell, Canadian coach, Ph.D. Student, Linguistics, UBC Graham Morehead, Web site, student, CS, University of Maine James Pustejovsky, Sponsorship Chair, Brandeis University Dragomir Radev, Program Chair, US Head Coach, University of Michigan