The second annual TEDxOregonStateU event ‘ignites’ OSU

Chloe Stewart and Taylor Collins Arts & Entertainment Contributors

To “ignite” means to “give life or energy.” On Thursday, five guest speakers and the OSU community set out to explore what this term means to them.

On Feb. 11, the second annual TEDxOregonStateU conference in the LaSells Stewart Center served as the catalyst for this exploration.

This year’s theme was “ignite” which focused on motivation and how people can develop better lives. Some of the topics included imagination, sleep deprivation and robotics.

According to Shelby Stevens, marketing and communications director of the student task force that planned the event, “ignite” was chosen to take the next step after last year’s theme, “disruption.”

“Ignite is a call to action,” Stevens said. “If you’re not happy with  something, change it. It addresses a more individual level.”

Megan Huber, microbiology sophomore, was excited to hear Kyle Hart’s speech about imagination.

“I have taken classes on imagination and how you can inspire creativity in kids, so I really want to hear his whole take on the issue,” Huber said.

Shortly after 6 p.m., the audience had found their seats and the event started with a video that explained the purpose of TED talks, which is to share “ideas worth spreading.”

The first to “ignite” the audience with their ideas was Habiba Addo, a Portland public school teacher and performer. Before starting her speech, “Talking Stories” she entered the room singing a “Song of Eleggua” which immediately silenced the crowd. During her time on stage, Addo discussed the power of telling stories.

“Stories can help us all make the best choices, the healthiest choices for ourselves and our communities as well,” Addo said.

For Addo, a native of Ghana, telling stories has allowed her to build connections and to settle into life in the United States. Addo has been performing rhythm and sharing stories from Ghana, Guinea, Gambia and Senegal for over fifteen years. According to Addo, stories can allow people to be vulnerable, understand others and even solve problems across cultural boundaries.

“Talking stories is a brave act,” Addo said.

Next, Dr. Chris Barnes, associate professor of management at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, took the stage to discuss his research. Specifically, Barnes described the effects of sleep deprivation on workplace performance. According to Barnes, sleep deprivation has more powerful and wide spanning effects than is often believed.

“When you’re sleep deprived and you’re trying to get a task done, you are going to be less creative and less innovative,” Barnes said.

Dr. Jonathan Hurst, associate professor of mechanical engineering at OSU, then took to the stage to discuss how the locomotion of animals can be used as a model for developing robotics. During his talk, Hurst included his previous work on the robot called ATRIAS—the first robot to replicate a human gait—and the upcoming expectations of the next project, CASSIE.

“What will it be like when robots can go anywhere humans can go? Because we’re gonna find out,” Hurst said.

Following Hurst was Kyle Hart, XDNA lab technician at Intel who is also a writer and illustrator of children’s books. His talk expanded on the idea that imagination is not limited to those with paint brushes and sketch books. He ensured that everyone has an imagination, regardless of status or occupation.

“You didn’t lose your imagination when you were eleven, you just stopped listening to it,” Hart said.

Ending the evening was speaker Chinyere Tutashinda, activist, journalist and community organizer. During her speech titled “Justice” Tutashinda sought to ignite a spark of strength for others to stand up against social injustices.

“I found my action in healing,” Tutashinda said. “It is up to all of us here to figure out — what is our action? And that action will heal us all.”

During her talk, Tutashinda encouraged those listening to take action in their lives and communities in order to find this strength. According to Tutashinda, she hoped that her talk would influence the audience in the way that her favorite TED talks have influenced her.

“I’m hoping that it resonates,” Tutashinda said. “More than anything that there are people in the audience who hear what they needed to hear.”

According to Dale McCauley, one of the Professional Faculty Advisors for the student organizing committee and TED license holder, this year’s event was a second exciting triumph.

“I couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” McCauley said. “Last year’s team really knocked it out of the park and this year’s team did even better.”

In the future, McCauley looks forward to collaborating with more students and being part of upcoming TEDxOregonStateU events.

“I look forward to continuing with a new theme, new speakers and continuing to help students think in new ways,” McCauley said.

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