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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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Speaker Spotlight: Stephen HeaveN Cantor

Speaker Spotlight: Stephen HeaveN Cantor

Who knew that a TV cartoon would help lead to a career in beatboxing?

“I was obsessed with cartoons when I was a kid,” says beatbox champion Steven HeaveN Cantor. I remember watching ‘Doug” and the opening theme song had a very beatbox feel to it. That was an early inspiration.”

Alternative rock from “Matchbox 20” and “Third Eye Blind” were other early influences as Cantor hung out with his older brother who listened to those bands.

Later, playing alto sax in school bands he learned to read music, which he says is definitely an asset.

“Beatboxing is an art form that encompasses more than just the sounds of drums. You have melodies and you can mimic anything in beatbox. After all, what is music but not a composition of sounds?”

He didn’t try to beatbox, however, until his freshman year in high school when listening to pioneers like Dougie Fresh, The Fat Boys and Biz Markie.

“For the longest time I walked around trying to do it and all I heard was ‘shut up.’ I even wrote a song about how my mother would come into my room late at night and tell me to be quiet. Finally, one day a friend said, ‘Hey, can you do that again?’ That’s when realized I was good at it. People stopped telling me I was annoying them.”

Cantor believes beatboxing is an art form not determined by culture. “It compliments the person to bring out their own culture no matter where they live and no matter what kind of music they’re used to.”

Cantor’s 2011 nationwide tour in India with hip-hop dancers HaviKoro solidified his belief.

“When we went to the slums they brushed the street with brooms to clear an area for us to perform. We had no instruments, but kids crowded around and started dancing. It was all about being creative with who you are rather than what you have.”

Cantor’s creativity spills over into film, which he has always loved. With a B.A. in Film and a minor in Performance Theater from Georgia State University he’s combined his two loves to grow his artistry.

“I knew the direction I wanted to take. I knew the image I wanted. I feel more of a complete artist when I can create visuals of what I’m doing. I have more control.”

This fall Cantor performed live with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra in what he describes as a rare and magical experience of “two worlds colliding.”

“It was bringing the classical and hip hop worlds together and it brought a whole new excitement to my future. I want to push the art in ways I haven’t in the past. I will do it again, one way or the other.”

Ironically, cartoons will come full circle in Cantor’s life when he makes his film debut this Christmas in “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.”

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Rosemary Taylor, APR, is a writer and digital content strategist at PR Focus.

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2015 Speaker Spotlight – Jill Perry-Smith

2015 Speaker Spotlight – Jill Perry-Smith

How would your level of creativity differ if you had different friends? How would your critical thinking skills be different if you had different co-workers? Dr. Jill Perry-Smith’s work in organizational psychology and informal social networks delves into the possibility that who you know directly influences your ability to achieve creative and innovative success.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering she went to work for Exxon, managing refinery projects. While working for the energy company she began the part-time MBA program at Pepperdine University. The combination of working with traditionally introverted engineers and taking organizational psychology courses led her to thinking more about the power of social networks for critical thinking and creative skills in the work place. Perry-Smith states, “I found the topic to be fascinating given my work as an engineer. I consider engineers to be creative problem solvers but are not generally considered to be very social.” It would seem that these highly lauded job skills are not determined by the size of your social network, but by who you select as its members.

The idea of using your social network as a muse might sound like an odd one. The theory does not mean that growing your list of Facebook friends will make you the next Monet. In fact, that type if social network isn’t what the Emory University professor means at all. She believes that while we are more connected than we have ever been before because of the reach of the World Wide Web, these relationships don’t always create the quality connections that we need to get our creative juices flowing.

On the concept of “social,” Perry-Smith believes:

Being social can mean many things. My focus is on relationships and social interactions and which ones boost our creativity. As someone who doesn’t consider herself to be highly social, I cringe at the idea that we need to talk to many people and flow in and out of various receptions and gatherings with many people I do not know. So, my work reveals that this is really not necessary to boost creativity.”

TEDxPeachtree 2015 will explore the theme of “Ripple” and examine examples of ripple effects. Perry-Smith comments, “I think of a ripple as an effect that spans out widely beyond the initial force that started the ripple in the first place. I hope that my work will cause that type of carryover effect beyond the conference. I hope that as we think about our interactions going forward, my work may prompt a slight adjustment that may yield important new outcomes – like creativity.”

She describes her upcoming November TEDxPeachtree appearance as, “Interesting, novel and research based.” This will be her first TED talk and she looks forward to sharing her ideas with the audience and the opportunity to discuss those concepts with them afterwards. No doubt quite a few conversations will be had that will inspire creativity and innovation for both attendees and speakers alike.

Buy your tickets for TEDxPeachtree 2015 today by clicking here. View one of Dr. Perry-Smith’s favorite TED talks by Susan Cain on the power of introverts by clicking here.


Maria Pinkelton is the Senior Communication Specialist for Cox Media Group – Technology. She lives in Decatur with her husband and son, along with a fine collection of craft beer and size 11 shoes. 

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TEDxPeachtree 2015 Speaker Spotlight: Galo



“I try to embody the creative aspect throughout my life and through my own training,” says Galo, founder and force behind The Movement Project. The Crossfit trainer and former financial analyst’s blog embodies that philosophy, bringing together observations on life, on physicality, on creativity.

Take, for instance, his entry A Beautiful Practice, dated September 27th, where Galo speaks about internalizing the change we want in our lives.

‘To start’ insinuates ‘to finish’,” he begins. “But what if there was that one thing you committed to everyday?…Something you genuinely knew had no fin.” But beyond that, “What if ‘starting’ is just an illusion? / If something calls to us so strongly, don’t question it. / It’s not about starting whatever that something is, it’s about becoming that person we want to become. / ‘This is what I do,’ ceases to exist and makes way for ‘This is who I am.’”

As a trainer in a Crossfit gym, Galo understands that the strength and conditioning program is designed to optimize a person’s ability across a number of fitness disciplines. His approach takes this one step further, considering the physical as just one approach among many in changing a person’s life.

“Most of my clients are looking for more of a traditional fitness perspective. But what I’ve found is that when we cover everything that happens outside of the gym we start to really see major changes.” And so Galo uses The movement Project to share ideas related to health from a different, fuller perspective, pushing beyond a client’s time at the gym “For me, what I’ve found is that most of the people I work with find that their productivity and their ability to get through the work day flows much smoother after they’ve ‘worked out,’ and so I really try to emphasize that the gym isn’t the only place to find that release/relief.” This is where ingenuity – and silliness – come into play. “If we can just find ways to incorporate more movement into our lives and get away from labels and any preconceived ideas, that is ‘fitness’ – we can begin to really see the world around us in a completely different perspective.”

Galo well understands how preconceived notions can influence outcome. When he himself was younger, he wanted to become an athlete, an artist, an architect. But negative perceptions held him back – he didn’t think he was strong enough, big enough, creative enough. So what changed? “There came a point where I realized that reconnecting back with my body and readapting a ‘play’ mentality brought me a huge sense of creative confidence,” he thought. “A lot of this, really, is about breaking psychological barriers – introducing play back into people’s lives…” and while that may seem silly to many adults, Galo knows closing that mind-body disconnect, however it is done, is important to embodying and internalizing change.

“I’m realizing now how important it’s always been to bridge that gap between mind and body and how much confidence you build from taking control of our bodies.” In fact, “Building that kinesthetic awareness,” he continues, “unlocks the confidence and courage that ripples out to every other aspect of life.”

Wendy Kalman attended the 2009 TEDxPeachtree event and became hooked, volunteering each year ever since. By day, she works as a Proposal Manager, and by night, her alter ego as involved parent, engaged volunteer, music lover, and Facebook addict emerges.

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