TEDxGT draws tech savvy crowd

Tech hosted its first TEDx event in the Clary Theatre on Saturday, April 9.The event was organized independently by students and sought to bring the experience and format of the larger TED conference to the Tech community.

TED, an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design, is a set of global conferences owned by The Sapling Foundation, a private non-profit organization. Its stated purpose can be summed up by its motto: Ideas worth spreading.

The conference features a series of speakers, and each speaker is given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their topic.

TEDx is a program that enables smaller groups and communities to enjoy a TED-like experience through events that are organized independently by members of the community.

TED started with a focus on technology and design but has since branched out to an increasingly wide range of topics as a natural result of technology being interconnected with many facets of modern society.
Featured speakers at this TEDx event were from both inside and outside of the community. Some of the internal speakers included Jeannette Yen, professor and director of Center for Biologically-Inspired Design and John Cressler, professor of ECE.

Gil Weinberg, director of Music Technology at Tech, was among the speakers from Tech. Weinberg founded Tech’s graduate program in Music Technology and is currently involved in research interests about music networks, musical expression and music education.

One external speaker included Aubrey Graham, a social documentary photography based in Atlanta. Graham has completed photo-essays highlighting child disability, genocide and other human rights themes.
They spoke about a broad range of topics, from the ethical impact of technological advances in robotics, to robot and computer musicianship to a photography presentation about the conditions in the Republic of Congo.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of videos from TED conferences. Last summer, I studied abroad in Oxford University, where the TED global conference was taking place, and I thought Tech, being a research university, could benefit from having an event like this and get people together to share their ideas,” said Sharad Gopal, one of the primary student organizers of the event and third-year IE major.

One of the featured speakers from the Tech community was Regents Professor Ronald Arkin, from the School of Interactive Computing. Arkin spoke about Ethics and Lethality in Autonomous Combat Robots.
Arkin’s talk explored ideas such as whether or not robots are more ideal soldiers than humans are, and the implications of removing the human element from the decision to kill in war.

“I’ve heard of TED before, and I knew it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to express oneself in front of a diverse audience and get feedback in diverse way. I wanted to participate and be a part of this. It’s challenging to be able to do a talk in 18 minutes, especially if you are talking about counter intuitive ideas; but the benefit is, of course, I’m anxious to hear from the other speakers today and the interesting ideas they bring,” Arkin said.

The event drew a diverse crowd consisting of mostly Tech students, but also students from neighboring universities like Emory and Agnes Scott.

“I’ve listened to TED talks online before, and I wanted to come here and listen to the talks in person, especially by speakers from the Tech community, and get a chance to hear about things like the different areas of research going on that I normally wouldn’t get a chance to hear about as a first year student,” said Connor Zendt, a first-year ME major.

The conference also showed video clips from previous TED conferences, an additional requirement in order for this event to be considered a TEDx event. The talks that were given at the Tech TEDx event last week will also be uploaded online to YouTube.

According to Gopal, the event was sponsored by Auxiliary Services. He hopes to organize another TEDx event this fall that will be greater in scale and. With more sponsors, the event would be able to offer free admission to Tech students.

TED talks can be viewed online at www.ted.com, including talks from select TEDx events from across the world.

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