TEDxBYU 2015 comes to Provo

TEDxBYU came to the Provo Covey Center this year. This event was hosted by BYU's Ballard Center. (Jenna Koford)
TEDxBYU came to the Provo Covey Center this year. This event included nine guest speakers and was hosted by BYU’s Ballard Center. (Jenna Koford)

BYU’s Ballard Center hosted TEDxBYU at the Provo Covey Center on Thursday, April 9. Crowds packed the auditorium to hear presenters from a variety of backgrounds, including a Tesla Motors senior program manager, a planetary scientist and a rising composer and percussionist.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. This nonprofit organization began as a conference in California in 1984. The annual TED Conference invites the world’s leaders to speak in Long Beach, California. Many TED talks are broadcast online at TED.com and even available on Netflix.

According to the TEDxBYU website, “at a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.”

The following are recaps from guest speakers at this year’s TEDxBYU event:

Sterling Anderson works at Tesla Motors as the senior program manager of the new Model X program. Anderson attended BYU where he received a degree in science before continuing to MIT.

Anderson began by telling the audience about his love for cars. He said, “In 20 years, it’s unlikely any of you will be driving (a car). In 30, even less will own one.” Anderson talked about the dangers of cars, the science behind the specific paths computers learn to travel and the new controls his program is currently working on.

Anderson showed virtual car simulations and talked about his research on how to actually make these auto-correcting cars a possibility. He imagines a future where garages are turned into extra bedrooms, and parking lots are covered with more buildings for human use. He said a car could show up to someone’s location in under a minute when someone presses a button on his or her phone.

“One shared car could replace four,” he said. “In the time that people wouldn’t use their cars, like at nighttime, the car will drive itself to a car wash, park itself, charge itself and be ready to work again the next day.”

J. Christian Jensen has been working in film and media for more than 10 years. He began in journalism before moving to the broadcast realm, working on productions for National Geographic, FRONTLINE and AmericanExperience. Jensen’s recent work, completed at Stanford University, has screened at major festivals around the world, winning major awards including an Academy Award Nomination for his film “White Earth.”

Jensen showed three clips from “White Earth,” describing each person’s “personal narrative” and how they are to find their own stories in life. He offered three tips to find lifelong strength: find one’s marks and own them, tell personal and family stories and find one’s mentors in life. “Children who knew more stories about their history and childhood showed levels of higher self esteem and more control,” he said. “This was the best predictor of happiness in a child.”

Anand Giridharadas, author of “The True American,” spoke at a different TED event, but his talk was broadcast to the audience. He described two separate Americas — one of dreams and one of fears — and he said “America has first chances only, losing luster at allowing every American to become a somebody.”

Nicholas Fusso is an entrepreneur who focuses on proven poverty interventions. Fusso told the audience to “stop inventing,” because, he said, there are enough inventions but not enough innovation. He said people need to focus on distributing these ideas to those who need it.

Fusso gave an example involving mosquito nets and malaria in Africa. He said the mosquito net is a fairly simple invention, but when distributed in larger numbers, it has the ability to save lives. Fusso also talked about “sugar daddies” in Africa, a situation where older men support younger women in return for sexual exchanges. He said new “sugar daddy programs” teach girls they increase their chance of contracting HIV and having an unwanted pregnancies.

Fusso reiterated that none of these successful organization leaders ever invented anything; they simply took an idea and figured out how to distribute it. “Distribution saved millions of lives. Doing this impacts the world in a much quicker time frame. Focus your talents to distributing good, existing inventions to people in need.”

Jane Leu is an internationally recognized serial social entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow with more than 20 years of experience building start-up ventures. Leu is an avid coach and mentor to emerging social entrepreneurs in the United States and globally. Leu talked about two of her start-up businesses, Upwardly Global and Smarter Good.

Casey Cangelosi is a rising composer and percussionist in the contemporary music world. Casey’s technique has been called “ridiculous … he has a stunning command of the marimba.”

Cangelosi performed two musical pieces at TEDxBYU, the first with just a pair of cymbals and background voices, a piece many could not comprehend at first because of its odd movements and little original music. His message in the first piece was to tune out the maestro’s voice inside one’s head, because too many critique themselves harshly.

He then finished with a snare drum performance that showed just how fast he could drum. He has mastered the pianos and fortes of his artistic tool and impressed those in attendance with his passion and skill.

Jani Radebaugh teaches geological sciences at BYU and specializes in the shapes and origins of landscapes in the solar system. She is a planetary scientist who studies features on Earth’s surface to gain insight into similar landforms and processes on other planets. Radebaugh talked about her current investigations of lava lakes in volcanoes and bodies of water on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Radebaugh’s main point was, “We explore so that we may discover.” She announced two new space explorations that will occur this year: one to Io, Jupiter’s moon, and another to Pluto. Radebaugh said an aircraft will arrive in Pluto in July 2015 to take better images.

Lehla Kisor will soon graduate from BYU and is studying linguistics and business strategy. She currently works at the Ballard Center on the marketing team and as an internship director for the Google Community Leaders Program. Kisor spoke about pandas and described their eating and sleeping habits.

She said the bamboo pandas eat is not nutritionally beneficial, and she asked the audience, “What is the bamboo in your life?” She urged people to learn, question and adapt to what they hear that inspires them.

Clint Smith was the final video speaker at TEDxBYU. Smith’s short video spoke about the danger of silence and what humans should do to break through. He transformed his talk into a slam poem toward the end and said, “Sometimes all people want to be is human.”

Matt Taylor has worked with a range of nonprofit organizations, tackling issues like early childhood development, youth employment and financial inclusion. Taylor ended the night by speaking on compassion and said it is “more easily felt than defined.”

Taylor highlighted multiple websites where people can directly donate money to those in need. He spoke of his parent’s compassion and said that a “renaissance of compassion” was underway.

Emcee Jessamyn Lau, philanthropist and executive director of the Peery Foundation, opened and closed this year’s TEDxBYU. Attendees were encouraged to share videos of this event on social media in the near future.

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