Clued In

Clued In

What is Carnegie Mellon University?

In the Dec. 18 episode of Jeopardy! CMU helped make a contestant $1,000 richer.

The appearance as an answer in the U.S. News and & World Report's Best of 2014 category is just the latest for the university's long ties to the game show.

It's at least the second time that CMU has been part of a Jeopardy question. In 2010, host Alex Trebek read a clue stating that the Pittsburgh university named for Andrew Carnegie is the USA's first to offer a degree in this musical instrument. The answer: "What is the bagpipe?"

Carnegie Mellon University also has played a part in making a Jeopardy! College Champion and the game-winning IBM "Watson" computing system.

Some 25 million people tune into the game show each day. One of them is Kermin Fleming (E'06), who was the Jeopardy! College Champion in 2004. The tournament was taped at the University of Pittsburgh.

"It was exciting to play with the home crowd advantage," Fleming said. 

Ten years out, Fleming said that Jeopardy! was influential to his career. He was the first CMU student to win the Jeopardy! College Championship. Prior to him, Jara Dorsey (A'03) advanced to the tournament's final round in 2002.

Fleming has appeared several times on Jeopardy! in special tournaments of champions. At the time he appeared, he was asked where he saw himself in 10 years. His response, "Get a Ph.D. and work in research somewhere, maybe IBM or Intel."

And he's doing just that. A graduate of CMU's electrical and computer engineering program, Fleming earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and works at Intel developing supercomputers and hardware. He often interacts with interns, including those from CMU.

"I'm pretty happy with what we're doing right now, we're pushing forward a lot of really interesting technologies and interacting with a lot of interesting students," Fleming said. "Every day in high tech, we're working on technology to solve the world's problems. Everything we see in all of our economic growth is driven by computation and better computers. It's very rewarding to be a part of that at Intel; we're truly building very advanced things here."

Fleming said CMU was the best place for him to study.

"It gave me all the skills I needed in my career to achieve my goals," he said.

Watson Wins

One other product of CMU has been featured on Jeopardy! In 2011, CMU was one of eight universities collaborating with IBM to advance the Question Answering (QA) technology behind the IBM "Watson" computing system. CMU contributed two important pieces of Watson's software — an algorithm for identifying the best sources for a given topic and another that helped Watson identify the most likely answer.

IBM and CMU also have collaborated on the Open Advancement of Question Answering Initiative (OAQA), which encouraged the creation of a computer architecture and methodologies that could be used by researchers to support the Watson system.

Watson competed (and won) against Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a historic "man vs. machine" match that aired on Jeopardy! February 2011.

Related Links: ECE Junior Wins Jeopardy! College Championship | Watson Wins | School of Computer Science

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