[Live Blog] TEDxPSU 2016: Drive Y(our) Reality

The sixth annual TEDxPSU conference will bring together leading thinkers and innovators in the community for a one day speaker series starting at 10 a.m. today (here’s a great history lesson from its founder). We’ll be blogging throughout the day from Schwab Auditorium, so check back often for updates. Here’s the full list of speakers expected today.

5:02 p.m. After a brief brainstorming session among the audience, State College band Tapestries took the stage to bring it all home. Thanks for following along!

4:45 p.m. The last speaker of the day is Michael Burroughs. He is Penn State’s Associate Director of the Rock Ethics Institute and Senior Lecturer of Philosophy, and he spoke about the ethical questions we must ask every day.

“You can tell a friend an important truth, but also might end the friendship. You recognize the continue use of fossil fuels and yet you want to get where you need to go.”

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Burroughs said we all know who teachers, professors, and philosophers are. But who is an ethicist? That can be anyone, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or you. Schools’ purposes are clearly to educate, but ethics classes aren’t especially common.

“Children and adolescents do raise questions in class about issues they face in the hallway, the way they’re being taught, but they’re side-stepped and avoided by teachers and administrators in order to avoid controversy.”

He notes the difference between personal beliefs and understanding what’s best for a community. What one person thinks might not be the best way to combat problems in society — his examples were sexual assault, terrorism, and institutional racism, and the need for one single answer on how to fix those problems. He continued:

“In a recent discussion I had with a young girl, age 4 in class I was working with, I asked her why she would include or not include another child. She said she would include her because she knew it would make her feel good. It was the right thing for her to do. She went on to draw a picture of what this looked like.”

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“Not only is it a beautiful picture for that reason, it’s also clear she’s here expressing community and why she think its is important to include this girl into her friend group. What became clear to me about this discussion and many orders is that children possess a sharp ethical awareness.”

4:40 p.m. Matt Cutts is featured in the last video of the day, sharing his mantra that you can add or subtract anything to your life in just 30 days. “Instead of the month flying by forgotten, the time was much more memorable,” he said. One month, he decided to start biking to work and realized it was fun; he continued, because he realized it was fun.

He always wanted to write a novel, so one November he wrote 1,667 words a day until he had finished his 50,000-word story. He joked that it wasn’t good, but now he can introduce himself as a novelist.

“The next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not. So why not think about something you have always wanted to try, and give it a shot for the next 30 days.”

4:27 p.m. Khanjan Mehta founded Penn State’s Founding Director of the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship Program and advises his students to follow in his footsteps. “Every year, I speak to hundreds of students. Early to mid-career professionals and they all tell me the same thing. What pays well I don’t enjoy. What I enjoy doing and where I can see the human impact of my work will not pay the bills, will not pay the student loans.”

Mehta acknowledges the issues caused by the gap between what’s “fun” and what pays. Students are often focused on debt when they graduate college and they want to pay that off. They aren’t concerned anymore with doing what they want. He says that social enterprises are the ticket to balancing the two — making a social impact and working as an efficient business.

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“Look at Intel. It is a publicly traded company. They create and support 100,000 likelihoods. They’re one of the greenest companies out there. They are investing 10s of millions of dollars trying to bridge the digital divide among men and women.”

“It takes a planet…you shouldn’t ask, ‘what business do I want to work for?’ You should ask, ‘what problems do I want to solve?'”

4:17 p.m. The audience took a few quick minutes to share their favorite moments of the day and what they learned.

4:04 p.m. Damjan Stankovic showed a short and wordless video to begin his presentation. His start-ups and innovative inventions have been featured in multiple journals, despite admitting “I’m not an engineer.”

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“If you ask a designer what his favorite work is in his portfolio, he’ll say it’s what he’s working on right now.” For Stankovic, his current project is a liquid clock. He had to make a decision between his full-time job or work on this project, which required his full attention. “It was an easy decision,” he said. “[The project] was the last thing I thought about when I went to bed and the first thing I thought about when I woke up.” Utilizing magnets and ferrofluids, he successfully built his liquid clock and within 24 hours, it was the talk of the designing world.

“So I started thinking what’s so powerful about a personal project? And I realized that personal projects let you express yourself. Let you show 100% of yourself and that’s your ID card because it shows how you think. There are no compromises. There are no clients. There are no deadlines and only the compromise you make for yourself.”

3:47 p.m. Session No. 3 begins with Miguel Mostafa, who has a Ph.D in high energy particle physics from a university in his native Argentina; he’s also studied in Italy, New Mexico, and Utah. He started his speech by talking about particles and energy in scientific terms before saying, “Some of us have seen these particles and we call them the Northern Lights.” Here are some of the ideas behind it:Screenshot (47)Mostafa then talked about the most complicated machine mankind can build — the 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider. In one second, atoms will travel up and down the machine 10,000 times.

His studies also involve particles entering the atmosphere, and the instruments he monitors that detect said particles. The machines are spread out one mile at a time in a field that monitors an area ten times the size of Paris, or the size of Rhode Island. When one proton enters the atmosphere, it can spread its sub-atomic footprint across a massive area.

“Why does this matter to you?” he asked. The particles are messengers from space — everything is the result of a supernova millions of years ago, and if these cosmic rays can be broken down and analyzed, we can continue to understand how the universe works.

3:28 p.m. The event is taking a short break until 3:40.

3:16 p.m. Next, the audience participated in a reflective exercise. Everyone found a partner, and they touched their right toes together while clasping right hands. They were prompted to score as many points as they could by touching each others hands to their own hips. After doing that for a few seconds, they were told the instructions in a different way.

On their first attempt, almost everyone tried to touch their own hips — to score as many points as possible for “me.” Eventually, they understood that willingly touching each other’s hips scored as many points as possible for both of them — for “we.”

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“Here I’m shaking hands for me to win and here I’m shaking hands in such a way that something else is possible. Here I make assumptions and here I question those assumptions.”

3:05 p.m. Erik Daniel Morales Gomez spoke next on immigration and his personal background. He works with Penn State’s World in Conversation and was featured on MTV for his work. When he was six-years-old, his family illegally crossed the Mexican border to come to America and noticed that there is a fear regarding immigrants.

“English is the de facto language and Christianity is the dominant religion and that’s not going to change. So why the extreme fear? I believe the extreme fear is directly connectd to people’s belief that this is the greatest country in the world. Think about it. How often have you heard that this is the greatest country in the world from somebody that doesn’t even own a passport and has never visited another country? Not even Canada. Yet it remains that everybody wants to come to the greatest country and live here permanently.”

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“How would our politicians and our law makers talk differently about immigrants and immigration especially during a political year — we have an election coming up — if we didn’t have this mentality that is based on fear and a lack of education?” he said before reiterating that this is a personal issue. He would go to school and think on the bus ride home, “will my mother be there when I get home?” He noticed that he was taught in American History classes about all of the great things immigrants have brought to the country, but he’d go home and see that they still weren’t welcome.

“Donald Trump was calling us rapists, drug dealers…the thing that was concerning to me is he was talking about people like my parents who are the two most hardworking individuals I know.”

2:50 p.m. Tisha Freer, a brand consultant, applied what she learned in her profession to her marriage. Her speech focused on her findings when analyzing her marriage as a brand. After giving background information on her industry, her clicker failed and she walked off the stage as technical difficulties were dealt with. “This is kinda like marriage sometimes, you have to restart,” she laughed.Screenshot (42)

Freer said there are three parts to analyzing a brand: understanding what the company wants to do, defining the customer’s experience, and differentiating the brand to make it unique. She applied the same research to her marriage and marriages in focus groups, and she found surprising results.

“That gap hit me really hard as I was walking through Seattle one night not that long ago with my 19-year-old son and I told him I was giving this talk. He was happy, really excited and proud and then really confused. Really confused about the idea that marriage perceptions and realities would be confusing. His answer was no, never. That’s the whole point of being married: not be lonely, to not be alone. Right, I said. Exactly. That’s what I expected too. 25% have a very satisfying experience with marriage, but I have never been as lonely as I have been during some points of marriage.”

2:45 p.m. After Edwards’ speech, a short video was shown of a TED talk by Clint Smith. He said one of the most important things someone can do is sacrifice.

“Prove to God. I have given up soda, McDonald’s French fries, French kidses and everything in between. But one year, I gave up speaking. I figure the most valuable thing I could sacrifices was my seen voice, but I didn’t realize that I had given that up a long time ago.”

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“Silence is the residue of fear T. is feeling your flaws, gut wrench. It is the air retreating from your chest because silence is Rwanda, Katrina, it is charring, it is chains, it is privilege.”

2:30 p.m. Next up is Keith Edwards. He is a “social justice educator” who has consulted at more than 100 universities. “How many of you think rape is a bad, terrible thing? How many of you think rapists are bad, terrible people?” he began. The biggest issue is that our society is reactive, not proactive, he says. His speech focused on rape and sexual violence as a men’s issue, since men make up an overwhelming percentage of perpetrators.

“Women deserve and have started the vast majority of the work today. They include don’t walk alone at night. Don’t wear that. Go with your friends. Come home with your friends. Now, when these are the only ways to address sexual violence, the real message is we know rape is going to happen here.”

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Edwards used a stoplight analogy to explain when consent is and isn’t given. Green means go, red means stop, and everyone knows yellow is supposed to mean slow down and be careful, but practically it means speed up. When a yellow light is given and there are blurred lines, that’s when the situation should slow down like it’s supposed to.

“We can speak up when we hear sexist jokes or when we hear someone describing their weekend hook-up in demeaning and degrading ways. We can speak up by saying ‘Seriously? Not cool.’ Or ‘Dude, no.'”

2:14 p.m. Marshall introduces the next speaker as a mix of Woody Allen and Bill Nye before talking about Richard Alley’s viral YouTube video in which he covers “Ring of Fire” to make it about geology. Alley takes the stage and confesses that he is a climate scientist. The stigma is that isn’t a popular profession — he’s treated much better when he introduces himself as a geologist.

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“It is a fascinating exercise going to a school class somewhere and pull out your cell phone and say what is it made of…There’s a little bit of sand in the glass and silicon for the chip. There’s a little bit of oil in the plastic and there’s the right rocks, the ones with the real earth elements and copper and what have you. And science and engineering and design and marketing.”

12:22 p.m. TEDxPSU will return at 2:05 p.m. after a short break! Check back in then for more speakers until 5 p.m.

12:12 p.m. Scott Woods is the president of a local software company, a profession he found after quitting his job 15 years ago and going on “adventures.” His talk focused on sabbaticals and the need to do what you want. Essentially, he said a happy employee is a productive one. When a business treats its employees like people and they value their individuality, it becomes more efficient. “Is this group of individuals worth investing all of our skills and effort…how are we doing as a country? Terrible!”

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12:05 p.m. A video from a TEDx talk in Rio highlighted the differences between how cultures are and how they’re perceived. Living in New York, the speaker and his friend realized that many people around them never interacted with people of their culture, so they opened a halal store. “For many, it’s their first time dealing with Muslims on an intimate level…It’s because our communities are so damn unique and so damn beautiful.”

11:57 a.m. Kletchka says she spends a lot of time thinking about why museums are great, but even more time thinking about the reasons people don’t like them. “[Museums, libraries, and churches] are repositories of culture. They have specific locations. They all have inspiration and knowledge that we’re seeking. They represent the richness of art culture. But for an awful lot of people, they are places of boredom and stillness and quiet.” She ended on the same note she started on — “I bet your best memory of a museum doesn’t involve looking at a screen.”

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11:54 a.m. Dana Carlisle Kletchka joins the program all the way from the Palmer Museum of Art. She begins by asking the audience what their earliest memory of an art museum is. Her work at Palmer coordinating educational programming earned her the National Art Education Association’s 2015 “Art Educator of the Year” in the Museum Education Division. S

11:43 a.m. Jens Grossklags takes the stage to talk about hackers and data breaches. He is the director of security privacy and economics laboratory at Penn State and researches hackers and their potential benefits. The focus of the speech is the difference between “white hat” and “black hat” hackers and the former’s value. White hat hackers are hired by companies to try and hack into their data, which will expose weaknesses and ultimately help strengthen the program. “In this talk that will take me about ten minutes, 50,000 data records will be stolen.”

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11:23 a.m. Nipun Mehta is up next. He is the co-founder of ServiceSpace and is going to talk about giftivism. “There are multiple forms of poverty and there are also multiple forms of wealth. In our society today, we’re too biased and too skewed in the direction of financial wealth. Wealth is equated to money. But there’s actually many different forms of wealth and money orientation hasn’t quite worked out too well for us. If you”

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11:09 a.m. Every member of the audience is connecting with a stranger in the room and asking them a question that is on a card in their name tag. The purpose is to drive conversation and hear other people’s ideas and perspectives.

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11:05 a.m. “400 years ago, thousands seeking a better life in the new world came as an servants. Too poor to pay the passage, they got into debt and in exchange for working up to 7 years in bonded labor, today 14 million Americans are indebted for their passage to the new economy,” Samuel pointed out. “Too poor to pay their way flew college, they now owe lenders more than $1 trillion U.S. dollars.”

11:03 a.m. Former UConn and Bucknell professor Sajay Samuel is talking about college, graduating with debt, and what that means for our students. “So tuition costs up, public incomes diminished, personal incomes weak. Is it any wonder that there are more than a quarter of those who must cannot make their student loan payments?”

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11:00 a.m. “Our scientists and engineers are the ones that are tackling our grandest challenges from energy to environment to healthcare among others. If we don’t know about it and understand it, then the work isn’t done. And I believe it is our responsibility as non-scientists to have these interactions, but these great conversations can’t occur if our scientists and engineers don’t invite us in to see their wonderland.”

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10:56 a.m. Now the audience is watching a TED talk from 2012 given by Penn State professor Melissa Marshall on TED’s main stage. “Five years ago, I experienced what it must be like to be Alice in wonderland. They asked me to teach a communications class for engineering students and I was scared, really scared. Scared of these students with their big brains and big books and big unfamiliar words. But these conversations unfolded and I experienced what Alice must have when she went down that rabbit hole and saw a whole new world.”

10:50 a.m. “I grew up in a small town in central Poland pretty much disconnected is from the creative community and that triggered the need for me to learn by myself. But when you are self-taught, you don’t have a mentor or a teacher who will instruct you or tell you how to do things, which may seem bad in my case, but it also meant more freedom.”


10:47 a.m. Pawel Nolbert is the third speaker of the day. He’s a graphic designer and digital artist from Poland who works with companies all around the world. “My career path was unpredictable and a series of experiments, some good and some bad.”

10:44 a.m. “With one in every five deaths caused by tobacco products, I realized that this company’s identity didn’t align with our college east identity. We aren’t able to hold ourselves, our institution and our partners accountable.”

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10:38 a.m. Patrick Cines, a junior in Smeal who is active on campus, took the stage next. He’s talking about Smeal’s corporate partnership with Altria, which he started a petition to sever because of the company’s role in the tobacco industry.

10:33 a.m. “It’s this phenomena of unconscious motivations of desires and fears shape the way we interpret information. So some information, some ideas feel like our allies and we want them to win, we want to defend them. Other information is the enemy and we want to shoot theme down. This is why I called motivated reasoning soldier mindset.”


10:29 a.m. “Our next speaker will talk about how do we create change within our minds,” Marshall said. Next up is Julia Galef who is the co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality.

10:27 a.m. “You’re able to pull individuals and carve out some space within the organization where they can mingle their ideas together and they did start sharing interesting perspectives, you will see pretty cool things where people are able to work together,” Lavra concluded.

10:21 a.m. Lavra is talking about the idea of intrapreneurship. “Rather than give you a really specific definition of what intrapreneurship is, sometimes I find the best way to answer is a question is to ask a few questions.”

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“Why, who, what and how and how it really fits into your lives and the lives of what is going around the world. The first question of why is to innovate and grow especially from an organizational perspective. When you think about this innovation and growth, who are the type of people that can do it?”

10:18 a.m. The first speaker of today is Joshua Mitro Lavra. He’s a product manager in San Francisco can he’s big believer in following the opportunities that present themselves around him. This year alone, he’s trying to make a hundred different things, which should be fun to follow that journey.

10:15 a.m. Before kicking off the speakers, the audience is learning how to actively participate in the conference by learning together instead of just listening. “There are 500 people in this room with cool 8-pound blocks on their head. So we’re going to get to access some of that knowledge today.”

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10:11 a.m. Today’s emcee Spud Marshall is comparing the event to a road trip. “We’re going to be talking to folks who are rethinking marriage, immigration, and even art museums on our journey today.”

10:02 a.m. We’re just about to get started here with a full day of speakers at TEDxPSU 2016. Follow along for coverage of all of today’s speakers.

Schwab is filling up!!!! #TEDxPSU

Posted by TEDxPSU on Sunday, February 28, 2016

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