This week marked TEDxDetroit’s seventh presentation, the gathering of local movers and shakers changing the world one idea at a time. Held at the ornately restored Fox Theatre on Woodward, it attracted an audience curious to see what ingenious Detroiters offer, while at the same time portraying an inanimate cell-phone/tablet horde staring at their hands. Fortunately for promoters, however, that audience was appreciative and responsive while being entertained, and actively engaged in TEDx “labs,” held at the neighboring Hockeytown Cafe.
Founded by forward-thinkers who are leading creators, entrepreneurs, educators, artists, geeks, designers, scientists, leaders, thinkers and doers, TEDx shares people’s passions. More than 5,400 TED talks were held within the last year, and with the exception of one performance Thursday, Detroit keeps to that pattern — continuing to inspire and inform.
Based on concepts developed 300 years ago by Ben Franklin, the tradition of group enlightenment resurfaced at a 1984 California conference, called TEDx, a non-profit, non-partisan group stressing Technology, Entertainment and Design. Early global TEDx ideas include those from a then-little-known 3-D filmmaker named George Lucas, and the concept of books read through an electronic box, called Kindle.
Detroit’s hosts are Charlie Wollborg and Terry Bean in an enterprise that launched during 2009 at Lawrence Technological Institute, “250 ideas ago,” says Wollborg. Today, Ted talks are held in 14 additional Michigan locations, typically each featuring 30 speakers/performers who are allotted abbreviated time to present products, discuss concepts or entertain the crowd. Its very content catapults dialog, hastens insights and enriches productive application.
The 2015 version offered some video clips and a live organist, Lance Luce, as well as the following speakers, inventors and artists:
- The Shelby 5, an a capella quintet with rousing beats and audience inter-action
- Tara Reed of Kollecto art app and other non-code-written apps
- Paul Elio of Elio Motors, with a 84 mpg, $6,800 car that debuts in 2016
- Charles Gibson, exploding scientist of the Michigan Science Center
- Amer Zahr – Comedian, writer and professor
- Raj Paul of Lochbridge, deciphering digital movement and what it means
- Rita Fields of Madonna University with business and management trends
- Stephen McGee of TheDetroitFilm.com project with drone and camera updates and, inspired by the city’s imagination, redefining what Detroit looks like to the world
- Dr. Debby Feinberg of Vision Specialists of America and how to cure various ailments by treating the eyes
- Poets Darius Simpson and Scout Bosley, exchanging tandem verses and roles
- Cathy Olkin of NASA’s New Horizons Southwest Research Institute with new discoveries about the planet Pluto
- Guitarist Alicia Michilli performing “Heartbeat”
- Teen Alden Kane and his invention, the Wheelchair Stroller, for paraplegic parents
- Mallory Brown of World Clothesline, a philanthropist raising funds for the global needy
- Dr. Charles Shanley of Medical Engineering Partners
- Singer Tunde Olaniran and harpist Ahya Simone with “Everyone’s Missing”
- Jeevak Badve of Sunberg-Ferar Design Studio, a firm “fueled by fun” in creating products
- Rob Mies on behalf of bat-population preservation and conservation
- Painters Dave Santia and Sara Kay, who create upside-down images, then reveal the results
- Poet Chace Morris with introspective inspiration and upbeat alliterative verses
- Karen Buscemi of Design Sewn with updates on Detroit as a world-fashion capital
- Gary Abud of Grosse Pointe North High School sharing “What Educators Can Learn from DJs”
- Jean Redfield of Next Energy detailing modern utility innovations
- Singer Britney Stoney performing “Waiting”
- Aaron Foley of Team Detroit, a writer who penned “How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass”
- Dr. Chris Lambert of Life Remodeled, a community organizer and blight-fighter specializing in re-purposing materials, buildings and neighborhoods
Guests are encouraged to change seats frequently to facilitate meeting more people and the traditional X-photo is shot at the start — panoramic views from rooftops, staircases or other high vantage points — of guests arranged in an X formation and holding a portable red X. Breaks during the day preceded lunch and six local food trucks provided refreshing and some imaginative fare: Stockyard, Bigalora, Chicken Coupe, Comfort Cruzine, Hero or Villain and Motor City Franks. At Thursday’s conclusion, an entourage visited Comerica Park before returning to Hockeytown Cafe for an evening of mingling.
Alden Kane, 17, received a standing ovation for his compassionate wheelchair creation, and numerous other moments were, deservedly, punctuated by enthusiastic audience support. The sole awkward moment came during Darius Simpson’s second stage appearance when he seized on playing politics with a racially-charged diatribe about Ferguson, Missouri and other cities. His stance was subsequently refuted by bristling, better-informed guests, and attendees found his “performance” a shocking affront to the TEDx pledge of non-partisanship and providing messages of insight and positive creativity. Further, his haranguing hatred for police and others was not only out of place for the TEDx message, but was also inaccurately-based. (Data mining of social media proves that recent American racial protests are professionally organized by core agitators traveling city to city, thus, exposing the entire “movement.”) TEDx organizers would do well to quash such ugly negativity and stick with the original format.
Overall, TEDx is an intriguing endeavor for audiences and participants alike, and we should all strive to attend at least one. It can be magical when providing worthwhile messages that reflect the best humanity offers.
More information is available on TEDxDetroit, as are copies of presentations, from around the world. For more information on city events or other subjects, click below to receive obligation-free notification of column publication.