On May 2nd, Chicago hosted the 4th annual TEDxMidwest conference. This event brought together top innovators and speakers from Chicago and the rest of the world to encourage a cross-pollination of ideas in science, technology, activism, design and the arts. Over 40 influential speakers and performers presented to an audience of 650 attendees which included CEO’s, scientists, philanthropists, artists and authors. TEDxMidwest offered an exceptional opportunity to meet and mingle with the speakers and connect with attendees during breaks and the receptions.
An impressive range of subjects were covered. Rick Smolan, a former Time, Life and National Geographic photographer discussed his latest project, “The Human Face of Big Data” and explained how mass aggregation of digital information is changing our world. With every keystroke leaving a footprint and the threat of surveillance lurking on the web, he raised the question, who is collecting all the data and what will it eventually be used for? Despite some negative aspects of all the data collected, he pointed out how the collective digital data can also be used to help eradicate disease, combat climate change and even predict earthquakes.
Frank Heidt’s talk on the threats to Network Security and Systems Penetration gave everyone an awareness of how vulnerable companies and governments are to hackers. As a past employee of the Department of Defense, Mr. Heidt shared basic tools to use to keep online identities secure. He also emphasized the need for awareness in a “less is more” approach when it comes to sharing personal data on the internet.
Joi Ito, Director of MIT Media Lab and leader in innovation, spoke on the role of the internet in transforming society. As an advocate of internet freedom, privacy and the role it can play in an emergent democracy, Mr. Ito has been recognized by BusinessWeek as one of “25 Most Influential People on the Web”.
Jeff Sturges of MIT’s Fab Lab GreenFab shared his belief that collaborative learning can be much more than just STEM and STEAM education. By cultivating a DIY mindset and increasing access to tools and knowledge, people can spark an interest in learning and as a result, develop careers in those areas. His video of Detroit’s Mt. Elliott Makerspace Lab (a place where kids and adults learn basic soldering skills) highlighted the stories of a local DJ and Sound Engineer learning how to repair their equipment. It also showed a grandmother learning how to perform basic installation upgrades on her PC. It has become a center for learning within the community.
“Deep Sea-Deep Secrets” by Dave Gallo showed us that so far only 5% of the earth’s oceans have been explored. “You don’t know Earth”, he told the audience as he shared details of his work mapping the undersea world.
Baratunde Thurson is best known for his satirical writings in The Onion, regaled the audience with stories of his visit to Chicago during the snowstorm of 2011 and digging out cars on Lake Shore Drive.
The talk that brought the audience to their feet was National Geographic photographer, Joel Sartore. His humorous and poignant description of his work with “Planet Ark”, a project to raise awareness about the extinction threat posed for more than 2,500 species. To learn more about this project and to view Mr. Sartore’s beautiful photographs visit:http://www.joelsartore.com/galleries/the-photo-ark/
On Saturday the TEDX Youth Event included 400 promising sophomores and juniors from several dozen Chicago Public Schools and 100 of their educators and community leaders. The speakers and performers inspired the students. They also met and spoke with them about their stories of overcoming great challenges, real-life heroics and a passion for causes. CPS strongly encouraged TEDx attendees to consider hosting summer internships for the high school juniors and allow them to participate in Job Shadow Days or Career Days Chicago Public Schools in 2013.
Representing Sterling Engineering at TEDxMidwest were Dolores Connolly, CEO and Marian Brady, Senior Technical Recruiter. Marian stated, “I found the speakers to be inspirational and look forward to sharing the highlights of the three day program at the next meeting of Sterling’s TED Tuesday group”.
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