Carnegie Mellon is well known for being a top research institution, and innovation is a vital part of this research. Carnegie Mellon is home to some of the greatest minds in the world. What makes these minds so great is that they are able to take an idea and reinterpret it to create something completely new and innovative. It is this reinterpretation which made each speaker at TEDxCMU 2012 so unique.
TED is a nonprofit organization all about “Ideas Worth Spreading.” For 25 years, the annual TED Conference has invited the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. TED speakers in the past have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Sir Richard Branson, and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share these “Ideas Worth Spreading” in a smaller setting. On March 4, 2012, students gathered in McConomy Auditorium to witness the innovation of the 10 speakers at TEDxCMU 2012. Each of these speakers had a unique perspective on the world, and they all inspired innovation through reinterpretation.
One speaker of particular interest was top-10 fashion blogger Gala Darling. Her emphasis on self-love and not taking life too seriously brought a unique perspective to the sometimes academically focused TEDx event. Her belief in “pink lingerie, sequins, stardust & candy-coloured Cadillacs” stemmed from a reinterpretation of her battle with eating disorders and depression. She is an inspiration to women everywhere.
Music was greatly emphasized at the TEDx event. Two speakers focused on music, and the classical guitar duo Threefifty Duo performed. Stephen Neely, artist lecturer at CMU, and Ardon Shorr, biology PhD student at CMU, each discussed unique aspects of music. Neely, who teaches the popular eurhythmics class at CMU, discussed the physical nature of music. Shorr focused on how music is interpreted by the brain. Both speakers’ innovative ideas were derived from reinterpreting the way people think of music.
Zach Weiner, creator of the popular Internet cartoon Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, discussed the impact of comics throughout history. His unique perspective was a favorite of many attendees.
Matthew Menos, founder of a verynice design studio, reinterpreted an entire industry. Instead of selling designs to nonprofit organizations to make money, he donates the designs. This, he says, gives the organizations more money to use in making the world better.
Razi Imam’s talk focused on a different type of engineering than we are used to hearing about at CMU. That is the engineering of luck. His unique ideas about how to be successful were reinterpreted from what people normally perceive as luck.
Sean Ogle, founder of Location 180, was another favorite of attendees. His unique perspective on how to live life was a reinterpretation of the “American Dream.” It is this reinterpretation which inspired him to leave his job and take the leap of moving to Thailand. It is the uncertainty of life which he believes has the most rewards.
Gil Taran, CEO of iCarnegie, and John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronic Arts, both focused on education. Taran discussed the importance of global education and what his company does to reinterpret education. Riccitiello reinterpreted education by introducing the idea of using video games to learn. Both speakers brought unique perspectives to the area of education.
Jay Whitacre, Materials Science and Engineering professor at CMU and founder and CTO of Aquion Energy discussed what was perhaps the biggest innovation of the day. His company creates cost effective energy storage devices. His innovation in the form of reinterpreting the battery has the potential to substantially impact the global energy crisis.
Every speaker at TEDxCMU 2012 was innovative through the means of reinterpretation. Each was unique and inspiring. It is a rare occasion to have so many leaders and innovators in one room, and it is events like this that make CMU such a special place for academics.