Birth and Growth of Computational Linguistics Skills in PRISMS

Even though PRISMS is considered a school where students’ strongest suits are mathematics and science, there is a whole other field of interest that more than 10 students explore each Wednesday afternoon – computational linguistics, which combines elements of logic, computer science and linguistics.

How did it all start?

The interest and idea for this originated from a PRISMS student, Sophie Stokman, who at the beginning of the year told her math teacher about the computational linguistics competition, NACLO, and asked if the school can be registered to host this competition. Very soon afterwards, the NACLO club was organized, and it immediately attracted a lot of students (approximately one-fifth of our student body). This is not surprising, as all PRISMS students have a natural curiosity and desire to learn new things, and NACLO was a challenge they had never experienced.

PRISMS students’ achievements in NACLO 2015

The first round of NACLO 2015 was held on January 29th 2015, with 12 students from PRISMS participating in it: Anmol Anand, Leon Deng, Johan Kramer, Paulina Kulyavtsev, Ruge (Echo) Li, Xuzhang (Gavin) Li, Yingyi (Olina) Liang, Shuangzhe (Tommy) Lin, Tingwei (Mark) Liu, Jason Lorenz, Rishi Rajendran and Sophie Stokman.

There were more than 1700 students participating in the first round, and only 169 qualified for the second round. Tingwei (Mark) Liu was one of them, but not only that, he placed 9th overall and was also the first in New Jersey! Being a top ten student in the whole United States and Canada is an amazing achievement. Congratulations!

Mark will attend the second round of the competition on the 12th of March, we wish him good luck!

More than a competition

Even though the idea for starting a NACLO club originated from hearing about the NACLO competition, the most important thing about NACLO is that students found a new way to challenge and enjoy themselves by both learning something new and having fun solving unusual type of puzzles. They seem to be very happy during the club time, part of the reason being that they have discovered their new talent and became more confident.

School NACLO club is open to everyone in school (both teachers and students!) and you can join any time of the year.

Some facts about NACLO:

NACLO (stands for North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad) is a competition for high school students, run and organized by professors from the top US and Canada Universities, starting from 2006.

In this competition, students solve linguistics puzzles using logical thinking. To be able to solve these problems, it is not required to have any previous knowledge of linguistics, languages, or computing. The puzzles can be solved by analytic reasoning alone, and serve as a fun introduction to a field many high school students have never been introduced to.

"Participating as individuals and in national teams, students are given challenging sets of language data and language puzzles to solve, with the chance to win prizes and international recognition. Students learn about the richness, diversity and systematicity of language, while exercising natural logic and reasoning skills. No prior knowledge of languages or linguistics is necessary, but the competitions have proven very successful in attracting top students to study in the field of linguistics and computational linguistics."

To take a look at a typical NACLO problem, click here:

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