Christos Marcopoulos, an assistant professor at U of T's Daniel's Faculty of Architecture. PHOTO COURTESY TEDxUofT

Karen Gomez is exhausted.  “It’s been non-stop TED” since February, when Karen and the other six members of the TEDx University of Toronto executive committee kicked into high gear, and at 7 pm on Saturday May 18, Karen finally stops to reflect: “I’m pretty proud, but it’s almost like a blur.” She had been at the George Ignatieff Theatre since the early hours of the morning, preparing for U of T’s first tri-campus TEDx event.

TEDx events are independently-organized events authorized by the larger TED organization to use the certain trademarks and branding, including the now-famous TED talk format. TED talks present one “idea worth spreading” in 20 minutes or less. The original TED talks are filmed live in front of an audience, and are then posted online and can seen by millions of people. TED speakers are expected to deliver an entertaining, captivating talk; the pressure is high. During Saturday’s event, a few speakers were spotted nervously combing through their lecture slides before their talks.  One speaker confessed that he wasn’t looking forward to the experience.

 

Impressive line-up of speakers drawn from U of T community    

The speakers’ list for TEDx UofT featured 13 of the university’s most famous and engaging professors.

Dr. John Polanyi, the 1986 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry, spoke about the need for a changed policy on nuclear deterrence, warning that “the bombs one has, by inertia, tend to be used.”

In a talk entitled “Everything You Love,” Dr. Dan Dolderman made a passionate plea for environmental consciousness. He also promoted his “Unstoppable Snowball” project, which combines environmental activism and social networking.

Christos Marcopoulos, architect and member of the Responsive Architecture at Daniels (RAD) labs, asked, “What if the building blocks that create the space around us become computational?” He then answered his own question with a slideshow of technology developed at the RAD labs, including the IM Blankie — “the blanket with an IP address.”

Ryan North, the creator of Dinosaur Comics and the writer of the Eisner-nominated Adventure Time comic book, was the day’s final speaker. His talk, titled “A Time Traveller’s Primer: The Mistakes to Fix When You’re Fixing the Past,” is a humorous testament to the greatest technology ever devised by humanity: literacy.

 

Next year’s event to include student speakers

The event’s MCs ended the evening with a promise to make next year’s event “bigger and better.” The executive team is already brainstorming for next year, and wants to push next year’s talks forward into March, and there was some speculation that there might be two TEDx events. The executive team is also highly committed to featuring student speakers at next year’s conference.

In conversation with The Varsity, Gomez spoke about the ideal student speaker. “We are looking for leaders, absolutely. But honestly, I think TED boils down to a good idea… A lot of the great TEDx talks that I’ve seen — the best ones — are just simple ideas, and they capture the audience. So we’re looking for everything — we’re looking for a bit of academia, because there are a lot of PhD students out there that are doing some mind blowing research, but we’re also looking for undergraduate students who have an awesome story to tell.”

“The students at U of T are remarkably talented,” added Colleen Garrity, another member of the executive. “They have ideas worth sharing, and we want to share them with a larger audience.”

The talks from Saturday’s event will be posted online at a later date. Check back with The Varsity for more coverage of the speakers and talks of TEDxUofT 2013.

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