TEDxUChicago returns April 29 with talks and design exhibits

After receiving rave reviews and the Best Event of the Year 2011 Award from the student government, the annual TEDxUChicago event returns on Sunday, April 29 with new enhancements and some surprises.

Speakers at this second annual event, titled “Revolutions,” will address topics that range from commercial sex trafficking in New York City to the future of “sight,” using augmented reality glasses.

“This year we put a lot of effort into making a more diversified roster of speakers,” said Tiffany Sommadossi, a student co-chair for the event. “We have received more applications from those in the general Chicago area, so unintentionally our event has exploded beyond the University community. We hope that each of our speakers will highlight how their unconventional ideas, methods and goals are changing our world in truly powerful ways,” she said.

This year’s speakers include: age theorist Aubrey de Grey; social media junkie Mohamed El Dahshan; eco-activist and CEO of ClifBar Gary Erickson; international lawyer and Rhodes Scholar Noah Feldman; Elizabeth Gerber, founder of Design for America; Melissa Gilliam, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Section Chief of Family Planning at the University of Chicago Medicine; art excavator Rebecca Keller; anti human-trafficking advocate Rachel Lloyd; Carlos Miranda Levy, Relief 2.0; memory manipulator Kari Nader; nanotechnology innovator Babak Parviz, a designer at Google’s Project Glass; consumer behaviorist Catherine Roe; developmental economist Sonal Shah; and search engineer Jaime Teevan.

The 2012 student speaker, Raghuveera Betina, joined other participants in a competition earlier this spring to win a spot on the TEDxUChicago roster. All competitors were encouraged to “be creative, be innovative, be inspirational, and be yourself.” Four finalists were selected to present their talks to a panel of select judges. Betina, a self-described hacker, talked about how acquiring the practical ability to code has helped him achieve his dreams as an entrepreneur. He won the coveted spot in the lineup.

While TEDxUChicago 2012 will offer the same format of thought-provoking 18-minute lectures as last year’s event, the newest addition is a showcase of designs that will be exhibited in the McCormick Tribune Lounge in the Reynolds Club.

The showcase will be simultaneously hosted with the main event, and will feature a handful of designs, products and prototypes collected from across the globe, intended to relay the revolutionary ideas in the lectures in a hands-on way. Some of the products, which will be revealed only on event day, won’t be available to the general public until their inventors have raised enough funding to market them to mainstream consumers.

“Imagine if more TEDx events could bring the technology and designs that are shared by TED speakers to the audience in a much more tangible way,” said Sommadossi. “Some of our designs are highly interactive, others were built just for our TEDx event, but all of the designs challenge us to rethink how we see everyday things and interactions.” 

Audience members will have an opportunity to personally reach out to the designers after the event, and the showcase also will be accessible at TEDxUChicago.com after April 29.

Performers for the event will be a surprise, and business strategist, facilitator and speaker Andrea Kates will serve as master of ceremonies. Kates, who recently spoke at TED Long Beach, has worked on and off in Chicago for many years. “I love the buzz of the city,” said Kates. “The campus itself holds special appeal because of its history and its community of scholars dedicated to original thinking and discovery. That’s the perfect Petri dish for innovation.”

The organizers also have partnered with GOODMaker to create a challenge. “This way people can stay involved in the mission of ideas worth sharing,” said Sommadossi. She is hopeful that the surprise challenge will keep the energy of TEDxUChicago 2012 going long after the event is over.

Tickets for the event in Mandel Hall and the McCormick Tribune Lounge are available through either TEDxUChicago.com or ubazaar.uchicago.edu. General admission is $30, or $20 for students with a valid UChicago ID. VIP tickets, which include access to receptions for speakers, sponsors and designers, are $50 for students and $60 for non-students.

Registration will start at 8:15 a.m., and the first speaker is scheduled to present at 9 a.m. The UChicagoLive Facebook page will host a live webcast.

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2012-TEDxUChicago

TEDxUChicago begins at 9 a.m. Sunday, April 29 in Mandel Hall. A live webcast will be available for viewing at the UChicago Live Facebook tab.

Photo by David Pickett

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