Queen's University — Since 1873
9th November 2010

TED talks inspire innovation

TedxQueensU Conference held Nov. 7 is the first ever at Queen’s

At the TEDxQueensU Conference, Peter MacLeod, co-founder of MASS LBP, an advisory firm based in Toronto, addresses the audience.
At the TEDxQueensU Conference, Peter MacLeod, co-founder of MASS LBP, an advisory firm based in Toronto, addresses the audience. (Christine Blais)

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Professor Steven Moore just finished building his personal home underground to reduce his carbon footprint.

Last Sunday, at the first-ever TEDxQueensU Conference, he told students all about it.

Moore, who teaches at the Queen’s School of Business and School of Environmental Studies, focused on underground architecture and building techniques during his talk.

“Underground architecture is more than just a hole in ground, it’s not dark, and it’s not dingy … our house actually has more light than any house that I’ve ever living in,” he said adding that currently the construction of his house is complete and they are in the process of putting native plants on their roof.

When building his underground home, Moore first built a strong waterproof building, then he insulated the building and then covered it with earth. Following this he installed heating and cooling and water systems into his earth home.

He said the most important thing is that we all take measures to live sustainably.

“I think [people] have to realize that the way we are doing things is not the best way. The way we are doing things is wrong. It’s destructive and we have about 10 years to change,” he said. “If everybody lived as students, we wouldn’t have a problem. You live close, you walk, you eat sensibly, you don’t buy a lot of stuff. I mean, that is the model for a sustainable society.”

TEDxQueensU is a branch of the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) brand—a worldwide conference circuit that promotes ‘ideas worth spreading”. The “x” signifies that this conference is put on independently.

Rachel Wayne, MSc ’15, said she attended the conference because the liked the concept of spreading ideas.

“I think there are a lot of great ideas out there but you don’t always get exposure to them just because our time is so limited,” she said, adding that conferences like TEDxQueensU gives students from all disciplines a chance to check out a wide range of topics.

There were 13 speakers, but each only spoke for approximately 20 minutes.

“Just having 20 minute talks gets straight to the point and gets you thinking,” Wayne said.

The conference held all day at Convocation Hall was themed “Superheroes: super powers in everyday life.”

Speakers included Luke Hayes-Alexander, head chef at Luke’s Gastronomy in downtown Kingston, who spoke about local artisan foods. Che Kothari, an established photographer in Toronto, who spoke about the importance of culture and music in terms of his own experiences.

Graham Raynor MSc ’11 said the live conference was an exciting experience because of its engaging atmosphere.

“It really promotes cross-disciplinary engagement. You see things I would never knew anything thing about,” he said, adding the talks shed light of the importance of local artisan foods.

Raynor said many of the speakers inspired the audience members to think outside the box and provided goals that they may aspire to one day.

“One day when I have enough money I would like to make my own underground house,” he said.

Andrew Phillips, director of TEDxQueensU said the speakers represent some of the best ideas coming out of the real world.

“We were trying to broaden the perspective of students. TED is about ideas. It’s also about saying education can happen in a lot of places, not just in the classroom,” Phillips, ArtSci ’10 said, adding that he and the executives sought out speakers with variety of expertise to make sure there was a little bit of everything.

“Some people aren’t sure about their majors,” Phillips said. “TED’s purpose is to display the crazy, zany ideas [that students] are not able to pursue in the classroom. Education is progressing, where the system is changing so people are becoming more engaged in the material.”

Planning for the TedxQueensU started last year, when Phillips searched for a TED chapter at Queen’s. Unable to find one, Philips, an avid TED fan, decided to host a mini-series of talks at the Grad Club.

“[At first] not many people were biting because they were thinking, well ‘I’m going to lectures all day why would I want to go.’ Once I put the TED brand name behind it, people were more interested,” he said, class="caps">TED.com hosts videos from many of its conferences. These videos are aired online, so anyone can watch them.

He said familiarity with TED Talks sparked interest in the conference for a lot of students.

To acquire a Queen’s chapter, Phillips had to apply for a license to host the talks by filling out the application available on the official TED website.

Phillips said he and Creative Director of the Conference Matthew Donne hope to renew their license next year and run the conference again sometime in mid-October.

“For a student run conference it was a pretty crazy thing to take on. During the summer we had jobs and [the planning] was busy and hope that in the future we do a better job,” he said. The executive members of TEDxQueensU all range from students currently attending Queen’s and Queen’s alumni. Phillips graduated last year and hosted the event as an alumni.

This year approximately 180 delegates were present at the conference, each paid $5 to attend. The entrance fee, went towards the cost of the conference but most of the funding was acquired through sponsorships. Phillips said hopefully by drawing on local resources he’ll be able to provide the conference free of charge to students next year.

TEDxQueensU plans to make most of the talks, which were filmed in HD, available online in the next couple of weeks at www.tedxqueensu.ca.

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