Posted: 06/05/16

Four secondary school students from across the island of Ireland have been selected to test their language decoding skills against the world’s best at the International Linguistics Olympiad in Mysore, India in July. The students, from Dublin and Donegal, finished ahead of 4,000 opponents in this year’s All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO). Run by the Science Foundation Ireland funded ADAPT Centre, AILO aims to inspire the next generation of multilingual technology graduates, who possess a combination of language competency and problem-solving expertise.

Pádraig Sheehy of Gonzaga College, Ranelagh (Dublin) was the Senior Champion. He will be joined in India by fellow team members Claire O’Connor of St Louis Rathmines (Dublin), Richard Neville of St Andrew’s College, Booterstown (Dublin) and Dónal Farren of St Eunan’s College (Donegal) who finished second, third and fourth respectively in the Senior competition.

The Junior competition was won by Alexander Harding of Maynooth Post Primary School (Kildare). Tristan l’Ansen Sparks of Methodist College (Belfast), Aleksandr Gusev of Royal School (Cavan) and Ross Beatty of St Andrew’s College, Booterstown (Dublin) clinched the 2nd, 3rd anad 4th places.

From a starting line-up of 4,000 students from secondary schools in 29 counties, the top 100 sleuths competed at the AILO 2016 national final at Trinity College Dublin in March 2016. Competitors engaged in ‘code-breaking’ challenges to unlock information in unfamiliar languages. No prior knowledge of a second language was required because even the hardest problems required only reasoning skills and creative problem-solving ability. Among the tasks tackled by finalists were to decipher rudimentary sign language used by Cistercian monks, and to decode messages in the Warlpiri language of the Australian Northern Territory.

Participants in AILO 2016 received tuition from experts at the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology, a €130 million academia-industry research centre developing advanced technology to adapt and personalise digital content and services to the needs of global users. The Irish team members will receive further tuition before they leave to represent Ireland in the finals in India later this year.

Speaking about the initiative, Professor Vincent Wade, CEO of the ADAPT Centre and organisers of AILO said: “The All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad 2016 is part of a nationwide Problem-Solving Initiative and represents the first element of our ambitious project, which is designed to raise the Irish public’s awareness of and appreciation for the importance and applicability of problem-solving skills across science, the economy and society. The two-year initiative will culminate in ADAPT hosting the International Linguistics Olympiad in Dublin in July 2017 and a family-friendly problem-solving festival in Dublin Castle in August 2017”.

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