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The Ripples, Waves and Energy of TEDxPeachtree 2015

The Ripples, Waves and Energy of TEDxPeachtree 2015

On the campus where some of the brightest and most innovative young minds in our country study, 16 of the most innovative and slightly older minds took the stage at TEDxPeachtree 2015. This year’s “brain-spa” and presentation of ideas worth sharing took place at the Ferst Arts Center on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta, Georgia. The weather was beautiful, the house was sold out, and the audience was eager to take in all that the day had to offer. Ripple was the theme for this year’s event and talks focused on how our actions create ripples through the people that we meet and the world that we live in.
TEDxPeachtree 2015 Team

The first segment of the four-part day was aptly named “Spark.” Speakers examined ideas and concepts that may seem small, but ignite very big things. Richard Wright explored the effect that our cashless society is having on criminals.  By starving them of their cash fuel through the digitizing of money, crimes are leaving the street and resurfacing on your computer. One attendee commented, “That talk really made me think about the digital divide and how that barrier has cut out those who aren’t tech savvy or have access to technology even when it comes to crime.”
Richard Wright

From TED Youth 2014, the audience heard Kenneth Shinozuka’s story of his childhood invention, Sensor Socks. By wiring socks with tiny sensors to alert family members that his grandfather was wondering off, he developed a solution to the dilemma facing many with loved ones living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Jenay Beer also discussed making technology work for seniors in our communities. Her work with computers, robots and the elderly has led her to always factor in humans in her engineering. “Oftentimes what is good technology design for the elderly, is good design for everyone: large fonts and simple design.”

Brian Magerko looked at creating sparks that can fuel an interest in coding. His Ear Sketch program, which is used by tens of thousands of people, makes the connection between musical expression and computer programming. It has proven crucial in developing interest in careers in technology in underrepresented populations across the country.

Perhaps the brightest spark of the first session was Chris McCord. His story of how his life, that was filled with anger and failure, turned around following a challenge from one person was compelling and inspiring. Through a combination of humor, truth, and dance the audience learned that the simple act of mentoring creates great heroes.
Chris McCord

Finishing out the first half of the day was the “Shift” segment. This group of talks focused on the need for us to look at the effects of the things that we do in a different light. Kirk Bowman urged the crowd to identify, inspire, and invest in existing nonprofits. The trend of starting new charities has led to startup burnout in targeted communities and numerous struggling and failed organizations. Bowman urges us to fan the fragile flames of programs that already do work through manpower or financial support. Instead of making our own ripple, look at current ones that we can put our energy towards.

Poet M. Ayodele Heath shared the “Genealogy of the Byrd Family.” This poem told the colorful and ever -winding tale of possible truths about the history of a family’s last name in a style that could best be called  “Alex Haley’s Roots on a shoestring budget.”

In his travels studying aquatic life, Alistair Dove has seen the effect of our non-recycling ways on shorelines and in oceans around the world. His images of plastic trash on beaches in the Galapagos were a shocking visualization of where our garbage can end up. His call to action was for us all to cut down on plastic.
Alistair Dove

The ripple effect of having a positive mindset was explored by Glenn “Daddy-o” Bolton and Jennice Vilhauer. Bolton has learned that while working with your competition, ” Watching is learning. Hating is dumb.” By finding a space that is not there yet you create new opportunities to grow as an artist. Vilhauer was much lauded for her theory that positive thinking leads to positive outcomes. She has found that it is your expectations of your future that limit you the most.
Jennice Vilhauer

Following lunch, the highly energizing “Disrupt” program began with a bang!  HeaveN Beatbox returned again this year for a stunning performance with the Atlanta Celli. The stage was electrified by their combination of classical instruments and hip-hop vocalization. The performance earned cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd.

HeaveN Beatbox and The Atlanta Celli

Jordan Amadio came to the stage and shared how he has made the startup model work in the world of neurosurgery. His program NeuroLaunch is the world’s first neuroscience startup accelerator that has graduated 11 startups that have created $15 million in value. In keeping with the “brain” theme, the crowd was riveted by Miguel Nicolelis’ TED Global 2014 talk on brain-to-brain communication. Through the use of mental imaging, scientists have made it possible for brains to be able to share their abilities with other brains. One TEDxPeachtree attendee noted, “I wish Dr. Nicolelis was here in person. I have questions on top of questions about the possibilities of that technology.”

The finale of the “Disrupt” portion of the program was Roboticist Andrea Thomaz.  Thomaz wowed the audience with a robot named Curi. The robot, which has the ability to take social cues from humans, is a major step towards actually having the Jetson’s “Rosie” in our very own kitchens.

“Connect” was the final segment of the day, and it fittingly began with Movement Explorer Galo Alfredo Naranjo.  He has found the correlation between movement and the energizing effect it has on the mind. “The opposite of play isn’t work; it’s depression.” The effect that physical movement had on the human body isn’t just one of increased heart rate and the possibility of weight loss. As Galo Alfredo Naranjo tells it, movement of the body makes for movement of the mind also.

The topic of social networks and how willing we are to take advice from our friends and family was the focus of Jill Perry-Smith’s talk.  Her research has shown that people are more likely to take advice from perspectives that are different from their own. Because of this, the probability of us acting upon advice from people not in our immediate circle of friends is higher. One audience member commented, “Unleash your creativity by keeping your friends close and your acquaintances closer!”

The winner of this year’s TEDxPeachtree Poetry Slam  Theresa Davis wowed the audience a performance of the heartwarming poem that captured that title. Her piece “Like Like” struck a chord with many in the crowd with its look at young love and how vernacular transcends age.
Theresa Davis

TEDxPeachtree 2015 ended with laughs and music. Sophie Scott’s Vancouver TED 2015 talk “Why We Laugh,” had the crowd in stitches while cultural activist Eric Dozier took the audience on a journey of song and discussion of music as a social force. That theme was punctuated with Grammy Award winning Arrested Development taking the stage for a rousing performance. With members of the TEDxPeachtree staff joining the band onstage and the audience rising to their feet it was a spectacular ending to an awe-inspiring day.

Arrested Development Finale

Were you inspired to be a ripple from the talent at TEDxPeachtree 2015?  Join in the conversation and share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter. View photos from the event on Flickr.

M.PinkeltonPhotoMaria Pinkelton is a writer and communications strategist. She lives in Decatur with her husband and son, along with a fine collection of books, craft beers and size 11 shoes.

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2015 Speaker Spotlight: Eric Dozier

2015 Speaker Spotlight: Eric Dozier

Eric Dozier

Growing up in a black church in Tennessee, Eric Dozier had a broad range of musical influences, including gospel greats Shirley Caesar, Walter Hawkins and James Cleveland. Outside church he was listening to B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Earth Wind & Fire. He had the best of both worlds.

“And then in high school I went to an all boys private school and was exposed to classical music. I played piano, sang in the glee club and played hand bells all through Europe on tour,” laughs Dozier.

At Duke he initially studied engineering but soon changed to public policy because he really wanted to address cultural issues and somehow use his music to do it.

“Even though I had all this music in my life, being a professional musician was actually not my dream. But music was so pervasive in my life, the universe said, ‘this is what we want you to do.’ So I listened.”

Wanting to focus his public policy work on youth, race and education, he got his first opportunity when he volunteered with Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

“Music became the modality I used to reach them. As opposed to using public policy to address a particular issue they had, I would write a song, put a choir together, do a concert or even just have them singing on the street corner.”

Though he didn’t know it then, Dozier was on his way to becoming a cultural activist – a person who uses cultural understanding and tools to engage people in meaningful discourse about social issues.

“Social activism lies in the heart of African American music. It’s the music and story of people who had vision and wanted to affect the world. The old spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands” let everyone know that God cared about enslaved people, too.”

Dozier says that America has a very dynamic history of singing for social change. The civil rights, women’s, labor and suffragette movements all had music that helped them affect social change. He wants young people today to understand this past and realize that a soul song like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” – the quintessential protest song – didn’t just evolve in isolation. Soul music came forth from spiritual and gospel.

Through his work with the Harlem Gospel Choir, the One Human Family Music Workshops and the Young People’s Freedom Song Initiative, Dozier keeps his eyes on the prize: to share the love and history of African American music across the world and help it continue to affect social change.

“Music is the lynchpin. We can hit a lot of messages with it. We can use it to teach our kids, reconstituting what we were and remaking the world through our songs.”

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Rosemary Taylor is a writer and digital content strategist;


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Dana Barrett will add her signature spark to TEDxPeachtree 2015!

Dana Barrett will add her signature spark to TEDxPeachtree 2015!

Dana BarrettWe are incredibly excited that media personality Dana Barrett will be bringing her spark to TEDxPeachtree 2015 as emcee for the show.

Dana is known for her high energy, smart and engaging interview style on the Dana Barrett Show on weekdays at 9 a.m. on biz 1190 AM WAFS in Atlanta. Barrett previously also hosted Atlanta Tech Edge which airs on NBC 11Alive on Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

“Meeting fascinating authors, innovators and thought leaders from various industries on my show each day is a professional perk,” said Dana Barrett of her popular daily morning show on 1190 AM WAFS. “I am honored to be asked to emcee TEDxPeachtree this year and can’t wait to meet all the speakers.”

TEDxPeachtree licensee Jacqui Chew was recently on Dana’s show.

With 38 days to go, there are about 100 tickets left. Visit for tickets and a full list of speakers.

Event Details:

Date: November 13, 2015

Time: 9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.

Where: Midtown – Ferst Center for the Arts, 349 Ferst Drive Atlanta, GA 30332-0468

Regular Rate: $139

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2015 Speaker Spotlight: Jenay Beer

2015 Speaker Spotlight: Jenay Beer

Jenay Beer

“It’s not just what technology can do or not do. The human must be considered in the equation,” says engineering psychologist Jenay Beer.

Beer understands human capabilities and limitations and her goal is to apply this psychological understanding to inform technology design. “We can’t lose sight of the human factors,” she says.

In her current work as an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina, Beer directs the Assistive Robotics and Technology Lab (ART Lab). There she leads her students in focusing on the interactions between humans and robots and smart home technology.

Beer never envisioned herself working with robots. Originally wanting to be a psychologist, she also loved technology and wanted to somehow combine the two. Deciding to pursue graduate work, she discovered the emerging field of Engineering Psychology and learned that Georgia Tech offered the best program.

So the Ohio native ended up in Atlanta (the Georgia Aquarium, Piedmont Park, and Highland Bakery are a few of her favorite hangouts) and earned both masters and doctorate degrees at Tech. It was there that she realized specifically what she wanted to do with her all knowledge and training.

“The lab I worked in focused on the aging. I fell in love with this population and began studying how robots could help them maintain their independence, improve their quality of life and allow them to remain at home and grow old. “

Beer’s robots can do a variety of things from household chores (cleaning, vacuuming, making the bed) to handing medication to a person. The robots don’t think for themselves, just take direction. For example, a robot cannot decide which medication a person needs to take…it simply brings what the person asks for.

She and her students test their robots at local continuing care retirement communities, where they’re welcomed with open arms.

“Through my years in research I found older adults weren’t afraid of technology, like you’d think they would. If it’s easy to use and meets their needs, they will adopt it. They often have a social connection with the robots and want to name them.”

Despite her success with robots, it’s her students that Beer is most proud of.

“When I’m teaching and hear them grasp the concepts, use the right terminology and ask the right questions, it is thrilling. It really is like a ripple: a ripple of me teaching my students and them rippling it forward and having an impact on our world.”


Rosemary Taylor is a writer and digital content strategist;

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