Who: Atlanta wave-makers
What: An independently organized TED event, TEDxPeachtree
Theme: Be a Ripple
When: Friday, November 13, 2015
Where: Ferst Center, Georgia Tech, Atlanta

ripple tedx

So this was my first ever TEDx event, and can’t speak to the similarities or differences from those elsewhere in the world, but this TEDx was amazing. Also, I may update this post, or write new posts, as I dive deeper into speakers and their topics.

The scheduled programming for the day went through four main sessions: Spark, Shift, Disrupt, and Connect. Each session housed 4 or 5 highly talented speakers, including some official TED Talk video clips, such as Miguel Nicolelis’ “brain to brain communications” telepathy discussion in between. Overall I thought the format was excellent, and allowed for perfectly timed conversation breaks and lunch, without breaking the flow or excitement of the day. There was also an awesome “Cards for Humanity” game handed out with the programs to connect attendees. My card is below, and unfortunately I never found my match…


If you’ve never been to a TEDx event, I highly recommend getting out of the office for some inspiration and motivation, as well as connecting with the do-ers of your local community! Let’s dive in.


The Ripple Effects of a Cashless Society, by Richard Wright, Criminologist

  • “All of us have the capacity to commit a crime.” – Richard Wright
  • Sweden leads the world in cashless transactions, with even their homeless accepting donations via smartphone card readers.
  • Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBTs) introduced in the mid-1990s led to massive changes in countries like Brazil and Argentina. In Argentina, the public lost trust in banks leading to large amounts of cash walking the streets every day and being stowed away under many mattresses. Theft and street crime naturally increased.
  • Double edged sword: Introducing EBTs didn’t completely help fight crime and theft.
  • Takeaway: The nature of cons is changing. Just look at the most recent Target and Sony breaches.


TED Talk Kenneth Shinozuka: “My simple invention, designed to keep my grandfather safe.”

Can Assistive Robots Transform Retirement? by Jenay Beer, Engineering Psychologist

  • “Older adults are keen on having robot personal assistants help them with laundry and housekeeping, but they draw the line at having a robot help them host a party.” – Huffington Post
  • This talk was structured around the integration of technology to assist those with diseases like dementia. Human Robot Interaction, Aging, Emotion Recognition, Teleoperation, Autonomy, etc.
  • Read more from Jenay here!

The Magic of Music in Stimulating Computer Science Learning, by Brian Magerko, Cognitive Scientist

  • “By combining the arts and the sciences together in meaningful ways, we can discover far more about the world and ourselves than by either alone.” – Brian Magerko
  • By 2020, one of ever two scientists and researchers will be programming literate.
  • By sheer fact, caucasians and asians lead the charge today in programming and coding literacy.
  • 57% of bachelors degrees are received by women; 17% of those are computer science.
  • There’s an overwhelmingly increased demand for talent and literacy in the technology and programming sectors.
  • Currently there’s an appeal for children, with programs like MIT’s Scratch introduction course, but that does not correlate to the high school level.
  • There’s a huge opportunity by integrating music with the latest technology! Meet EarSketch.
  • EarSketch allows you to use basic codes to remix and sample different versions of songs in the library, or songs you add to the database yourself. There’s an authentic connection here, as the program is more efficient, and more creative conceptually than the various other routes to remix or sample a song.
  • EarSketch introduces concepts like: Data Structures, Randomness, and User Defined Functions.
  • Read more from Brian here.

We can All be Someone’s Hero, by Chris McCord, Youth Developer

  • Chris is also the Director of Men in Motion, a dance program for 8-13 year olds within the dance group Moving in the Spirit.
  • This was an incredibly moving performance, with perfectly matched words to his movements and dance demonstrations.
  • “I would be dead or in jail if mentors hadn’t invested in my life.” – Chris McCord
  • Use dance as a vehicle for workplace lessons for children.
  • 92% of people with mentors won’t see the inside of a jail cell.
  • We’ve all had someone who bet on us, how will you invest in the heroes of tomorrow??
(conversation break -- at this point it was announced we had live streamers from France, Iraq, India, Oregon and California, to name a few!)


The World Doesn’t Need Another New Charity, by Kirk Bowman, Political Scientist

  • “Turn ripples into waves; together we are limitless” – Kirk Bowman
  • Startup failure can be seen as a “badge of honor” these days.
  • Investor “donor fatigue” in people building foundations in foreign countries simply because they love the people and local culture. It’s well intentioned, but typically ends with negative impacts.
  • Kirk and his partners looked at the favelas in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil as foundations for success for youth. Ideas, organization, and leadership must be genuine and local to make a real (and sustainable) impact. Look at Miratus, for example. Local innovation to teach children badminton footwork fundamentals by using samba dancing. Brilliant.
  • Three I’s: Identify, Invest, Inspire.
  • Kirk’s shift: Talk about the positive and inspirational stories, not always the negatives and areas in need of improvement.
  • Learn more about Kirk and his organization, Rise Up & Care here.
  • Also–as it so happens, Kirk is also a soccer fan, so we were able to connect on the English Premier League!

Genealogy of the Byrd Family, by M. Ayodele Heath, Performance Poet

  • Poem-styled story, exemplifying the notion that the difference between truth and fact is story.
  • More from Ayo here.

Why the Ocean is Your Friend for Life, by Alistair Dove, Marine Biologist

  • “About 3 billino people rely on the ocean to provide them with the protein they need every day.” – Alistair Dove
  • Really enlightening conversation on how the most remote parts of the ocean are being affected by people daily. Example: whale sharks who are filter feeders; what’s the impact of the tiniest pieces of plastic in their everyday lives?
  • Within 10 years, for every three pounds of fish in the ocean, there will be one pound of plastic.
  • The ocean is the very lungs of our Earth. We don’t treat our friendship with the respect it deserves. After all, 90% of the transport of goods is done by sea!
  • Furthermore, Alistair explained how coral reefs are the rain forests of the sea. The largest natural depository of pharmaceutical drugs, and cancer fighting natural drugs. Yet, the budget of NASA still far exceeds that of the Marine biology department as a whole, meaning that a small percentage of the ocean floor has been documented. This is quite startling and might leave you with questions like, “How? Why??”
  • General oceanic knowledge is lacking, and perceptions are biased.
  • 94% of the ocean is pitch black. Sunlight reaches approximately two football fields in length deep. Additionally, the majority of the ocean rests at a temperature just above freezing. So much left to learn.
  • More from Alistair here.

Compete to Win Hip-Hop Style, by Glenn ‘Daddy-O’ Bolton, Hip-Hop Music Producer

  • Takeaway: Respect the process. You can’t tune out your competition, your elders, or the up and coming crowd simple to work on your product. “A head down for creatives is equivalent to blocking out information and education!”
  • Learn to love your competition, and do it better!
  • Find a space that doesn’t yet exist, and invest your time to innovate. Glenn’s example: bringing a band on stage with Stetsasonic back in the 80’s and 90’s.
  • Glenn’s credits can be found here.
  • I was fortunate to have lunch with Glenn during the break. What an impressively humble dude.


Our Better Future Lies in Thinking Forward, by Jennice Vilhauer, Psychologist

  • “The ability to transcend your past lies in your present moment awareness to consciously choose how you think about the future.” – Jennice Vilhauer
  • Takeaway: Your expectations of the future influence you the most. Asking her patients, “Where is your light at the end of the tunnel?” was quite eye-opening to her. This concept seemed to spark awareness and thoughtfulness, harnessing their mind-power of anticipation to create positive future thoughts and actions.
  • More from Jennice here.
(lunch break)


Beatbox Performance, by HeaveN Beatbox + the Atlanta Celli

Why Your Brain Needs Startups, by Jordan Amadio, Neuroscience Catalyst

  • Jordan discussed the creation of the first ever neuroscience startup accelerator, NeuroLaunch.
  • More from Jordan here.

TED Talk Miguel Nicolelis: “Brain to brain communications.”

Building Robots that Respond to Social Cues, by Andrea Thomaz, Roboticist

  • Andrea brought (debatably) the most exciting segment of the day in her robot demonstration with the impressive Curi.
  • Cadence: Dynamics and uncertainty of human interactions in robots.
  • Robots must be able to address collaboration, planning, spontaneity, and disruptions alike.
  • “Andrea Thomaz… wants [robots] to learn from their users, so that experts don’t have to program every task.” – MIT Technology Review, Innovator Under 35, 2009
  • “One day, robots will be a part of your everyday life.” – Andrea Thomaz


(conversation break)


Moving with Purpose, by Galo Alfredo Naranjo, Movement Explorer

  • Galo’s presentation was one I can truly relate to, and resonated with me. His journey to transform the concept of physical activity and wellness to unlock inner creativity is in part why I use a standing desk today. Galo’s uplifting story of leaving a financial analyst position in NYC to pursue this passion is one to follow along, for sure.
  • Einstein once said that play is a form of research, and at some point we stop playing. 
  • We think mind is greater than body, and tend to live from the neck up. There’s new, concrete evidence that the body actually influences the mind.
  • Everything we do now, we do sitting. By the time you reach high school, you’ll have sat for approximately 15,000 hours.
  • Galo urged us to consider that a short walk, or run, is the best food for thought there is. It’s not about being more fit, but about fitting more movement in to our lives!
  • “I believe that creativity lives in the body and that we must move in order to fully express who we are as human beings.” – Galo

Want to Unlock Your Inner Creativity? Ditch Your Friends. by Jill Perry-Smith, Organizational Behavioralist

  • Jill introduced a very interesting concept: personal relationships at work are critical, but are they overrated?
  • Acquaintances, or people you don’t know well, are immensely underrated and unknowingly important to unlocking inner creativity.
  • Relationships with acquaintances will lead to different thought processes, because you are two people with mostly different backgrounds. In a way, close friends can be detrimental.
  • Either we generally pay less attention to feedback from close friends, or our closer friends won’t share their “true feelings.”
  •  “While the importance of creativity to business is widely recognized, many organizational processes actually stifle it.” – Jill Perry-Smith
  • Jill’s complete list of citations can be found here.


Like, Like, by Theresa Davis, Performance Poet

  • Theresa performed a quick poem for the attendees, very well received.
  • Theresa is a nationally recognized poet, youth advocate, and teacher of poetry. In 2011 she won the Women of the World Poetry Slam Competition.
  • Davis also cofounded the ArtAmok Slam Team, competing in regional/national competitions.
  • You can see more from Theresa here.

TED Talk Sophie Scott: “Why we laugh”

Uniting the World, One Song at a Time, by Eric Dozier, Cultural Activist


  • Eric was our final speaker, demonstrating to us how music is a serious force for social change. He is a co-founder of One Human Family Music Workshops, Inc., and former director of Harlem Gospel Choir.
  • In Lehman’s Terms, Eric comically described his activism as teaching black gospel music to white folk. He described black music as Unity music, and I couldn’t agree more. “The music was never meant to be just for us.”
  • Eric introduced a music concept new to me: Call and Response, the theory of relationships in music. An example being “Shout.” The same goes for all conversations, thus crossing cultural barriers through music in this sense. Furthermore, Eric described how feedback leads to a deeper relationship and understanding, and the ways music can lead to these relationships and ultimately Unity.
  • You can find more from Eric here.

And last, but certainly not least, Grammy Award-winning, and Atlanta-native band Arrested Development, performed a few songs to wrap up the day!


The official TEDxPeachtree blog recap is here. You can also check out the recap from Hypepotamus here, and AgencySparks here! Finally, a great job by Jacqui Chew and her crew in pulling it all together, and my friend Dana Barrett for being a rockstar as always.


For more from this year, and to stay updated for next year, follow TEDxPeachtree on their social channels:
Twitter: @TEDxPeachtree
Facebook: TEDxPeachtree Page
LinkedIn: TEDxPeachtree Group
Flickr: TEDxPeachtree Team
YouTube: TEDxPeachtree Results


All photos credited to Steffan Pedersen, TEDxPeachtree, Wild Lookout.


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