OTL & Loving It
Ideas are a hit in the suburbs: TEDxTheWoodlands to become a yearly event, firstTEDxYouth conference added too
"A kaleidoscope creates beautiful images from reflection. Such beauty comes from small, shiny, random things from the bottom of a can."
Andy Boyd, contributor to KUHF's Engines of Our Ingenuity and featured speaker, serendipitously summarized the sum and substance of the first TEDxTheWoodlands, or any TEDx affair for that matter. TEDx events have been stretching beyond Houston, just like the event's tagline, "Ideas Worth Spreading." In a way, it's due to their ability to serve as an incubator for luminous thoughts waiting to be part of a larger intellectual portrait, a piece in a puzzle, a beacon of enlightenment.
Titled "Kaleidoscope Mind," TEDxTheWoodlands brought a diverse, near-capacity assemblage Saturday— with many on a waiting list — of curious smarts to Lone Star College-Montgomery's Music Hall, all looking to connect with theories, concepts and TEDsters. Smaller and more intimate than its TEDxHouston counterpart — though by no means less intense — being a participant in the conference felt akin to lounging comfortably in a scholarly, yet colloquial salon rather than being a passive listener in an academic lecture.
"As a lover of lifelong learning and a complete TED addict, it's super exciting to see the movement growing across our region," Javier Fadul, founder of Culture Pilot and TEDxHouston organizer who made the trek from Houston to attend the event, said.
"We come together to celebrate human accomplishment and the power of ideas and take away more than just inspiration."
Smaller and more intimate than its TEDxHouston counterpart — though by no means less intense — being a participant in the conference felt akin to lounging comfortably in a scholarly, yet colloquial salon rather than being a passive listener in an academic lecture.
TEDx talks are independently licensed conferences courtesy of the global nonprofit, TED (meaning Technology, Entertainment and Design), which lends its signature 18-minute lecture-style format to local curators who in turn gather speakers for a day-long brain-a-thon. The movement began in Monterey, Calif. in 1984 and despite losing cash initially, the 1990 revival in Long Beach and Palm Springs propelled TED forward to become a global force advocating change.
Peter Han and his 13-year-old son, Fabian Fernandez-Han, put on organizer hats, got their hands dirty and facilitated a successful event after which most participants, this reporter included, were recharged and satisfyingly brain fried at the same time.
Lining the path into the facilities and embellishing the stage were colorful geometric kaleidoscopes — crafted by volunteers in collaboration with Woodlands Art League — mirroring the theme's raison d'etre.
"Kaleidoscope Minds" explored creative processes surrounding innovation, education and research focusing on the hows and whys of lateral thinking.
Composer and music educator Dominick DiOrio dissected the elements of composition and offered solutions for addressing educational challenges. What he labels a "crisis of apathy" in education— though rhetoric places importance on the subject, $10 billion dollars in cuts in Texas alone tells the real story — can be overcome in part by taking cues from how masters like Beethoven and Hildegard von Bingen crafted musical shapes.
Learning needed to rise to become more compelling than technology.
"A ha" moments are when when your mind surprises you. Joyce Juntune, former classroom teacher and professor at Texas A&M University in College Station in the fields of educational psychology, child and adolescent development and intelligence and creativity, quoted a student while describing mind sketching as a method to release personal creativity. Reading, she explained, is not about words. It's about images and building the language of the mind.
Juntune's techniques used humor and joy as a point of departure, teaching with the future in mind asking what educators can edify today that will matter in 30 years. Above all, her goal was to release the creativity of teachers so they, in turn, can help release creativity in students.
What you value, you will get, she said.
Larry Loomis-Price, biotechnology professor at Lone Star College, brought his experience developing vaccines for infectious diseases — malaria, hepatitis C and HIV — to the TEDx stage to discuss the role of serendipity in progress, invention and innovation.
Tracing the discovery of antibiotics, laughing gas, artificial sweeteners and Post-it notes, he sees discoveries as containing a luck factor that comes from the flexibility to accept failure and deviate from the original task at hand. Everyone must allow themselves to slack off in order to learn more, think more, think sideways, reach out and embrace the unexpected.
Work is not just about going to meetings.
At only 17 years of age, Javier Fernandez-Han, founder of Inventors Without Borders and Peter Han's son, demystified creativity by dissecting what he calls the mystery model and the mundane model of creativity in his impressive talk titled "You Don't Have to be Creative to be Creative."
What some view as a skill isn't an out-of-the-blue realization, something that popped into your head, nor something that only certain people have, a divine gift, per se.
Han showed how. Using a heuristic approach to experimentation that employs a detailed checklist of criteria, he was able to invent a record player out of a water bottle, a pencil and a rubber band and a video camera caddy out of a kitchen stool for $12 (professional models sell for $872).
Ritika Arya, a social innovator based in Mumbai, India, explained her country's traditional, sometimes self-imposed, cast system. Her discussion, "Opening Creative Spaces," examined conditioning as means to either halt or activate community-based activism and volunteerism. Using colorful stories involving monkeys and how children turned 50 rupees (the equivalent of one dollar and a few cents) into 650 rupees, Arya captivated listeners by challenging notions of convention and societal resistance.
Han was able to invent a record player out of a water bottle, a pencil and a rubber band and a video camera caddy out of a kitchen stool for $12 (professional models sell for $872).
TEDxTheWoodlands also implemented short-format, 60-second talks during which Mario Rosales warned against becoming too busy to care and Alison Hulett taught to resist the urge to fit in. To retain individuality, your essential self is much more important than being accepted into social cliques.
For Gika Rector, getting "it" right the first time is overrated. It's not about being right. It's about being happy. Making mistakes often leads to learning and discovery. Sheryl Sits wants you to create a social web of endearment by slowing down and connecting with people and not technology.
TEDsters that needed more stimulation continued the festivities at Woodlands Art League’s new art gallery. Lively conversation with the speakers continued late into the evening.
The success of TEDxTheWoodlands means that the event will become a yearly offering. Javier, Han's older son, plans to launch TEDxYouth@TheWoodlands on Jan. 7, marking the first such youth conference in the greater Houston area.