This past Saturday evening, UC Santa Barbara’s Regents and Chancellor’s Scholars Association invited seven esteemed faculty members to share their ideas and wisdom at the second annual TEDx event.
The theme of this year’s TEDx was “Energy to Power: Harnessing the Potential of Today for Tomorrow” and focused on relevant contemporary issues related to energy sources and consumption, chemistry, neurology, education, transportation and human potential.
TEDx is an independently-run spin-off of TED Talks, an online forum to watch speakers at the top of their fields share knowledge on everything from science to politics. Some of the most watched talks include Dan Gilbert’s “The surprising science of happiness,” David Gallo’s “Underwater astonishments” and — with 26.2 million views — Sir Ken Robinson’s “How schools kill creativity.”
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and is a well-established set of global conferences operating under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.”
During Saturday’s event, chemistry professor Petra Van Koppen highlighted UC Santa Barbara’s science outreach programs CenSURF and SciTrek, which aim to involve students in science at a young age. While on stage, Van Koppen ignited bubbles of methane gas in a demonstration meant to encourage students to ask questions and find wonderment in science.
“‘I am going to do science.’ This is what one student said to his mother after he visited this lab,” Van Koppen said. “He was having learning issues and after the lab he just decided he was going to do science and is working hard in school and now he is in honors science.”
Jeff Moehlis, a mechanical engineering professor, gave a talk on harnessing “brain control” as means to cure diseases such as Parkinson’s. His research targets the mimicking of electrical signals similar to those produced by neurons, the basic working units of the brain.
“There are 100 billion neurons in your brain,” Moehlis said. “If you were to count neurons one by one — say it takes a second to count per neuron — it would take you over 3,000 years to count all the neurons just in a single brain.”
Cengage Learning, an educational content-providing company, sponsored this year’s TEDx event. Cengage Learning consultant Aleks Burvikovs said that the program aims to bring together students and faculty and promote unconventional learning methods.
“Cengage works to develop engagement between students, faculty and publishers,” Burvikovs said. “As a new forum to provide education without being in a classroom, TED represents the growth and future of education.”
The event, held in the Theater and Dance Building 1701, required an application to attend, with only small pool of attendees accepted from the large amount of applications submitted.
In former Assistant Dean of Students Britt Andreatta’s talk “How Your Past High Jacks Your Future,” she said that humans are naturally wired to reach our potential.
“We all have potential, but do we know how to get there?” Andreatta said. “I am not what happened to me; I am who I choose to become.”
Don Lubach, UCSB Assistant Dean of Students and Director of First-Year & Graduate Student Initiatives, said that the TEDx talks were 99 percent student-led: in a novel twist of events, faculty members were encouraged to look to the students in determining how to go about giving their presentations to a larger and more diverse audience than they were used to.
“Our TEDx looks very garage-band,” Lubach said. “There is a purity to it. Not pretentious, a little reckless — a true UCSB product.”
Lead organizer Edward Trout, who was asked at the night’s end to give parting words, said that he felt equal parts relieved and ecstatic.
“It was a good validation of all the work involved,” Edward said. “Tonight is really the apex of our efforts: the students, the faculty — everyone who helped organize the event.”
Other talks at the event included Associate Professor of Chemistry Donald Aue’s “Birfucation (and More) on Reaction Pathways,” physics professor Gary Horowitz’s “The Power of General Relativity,” Chair of Asian American studies John Park’s “Two Revolutions” and Jason Raley’s three-part talk on schools regaining a democratic function.
For those not fortunate enough to attend this year’s UCSB TEDx, it is available for livestream HD viewing on the Gauchocast website.