On Friday, Jan. 17, Gunn hosted its annual TEDx conference, an independently organized event dedicated to the spread of ideas and messages throughout communities. The event featured 14 speakers, four of whom were Gunn upperclassmen. The other presenters included professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds and occupations including environmental technology, tennis and economics. The speakers were chosen for their relevance to the event’s motto, “be the variable,” which means that individuals can work together to make an impact on the world as long as they pursue their passions.
The speakers at the event told stories of major passions that impacted their lives and spurred their desire to give back to society. They spoke not only of achieving success, but also of undergoing failure, having conviction and learning how to think outside the box. “People can learn from TEDx without worrying about getting an A,” TEDx club co-president junior Maya Ram said. “They can listen and collaborate to spread messages through the community. TED is about stories of people going for it, regardless of the results.”
Entrepreneur Hunter Franks was one of the event’s notable speakers. He spoke about the Neighborhood Postcard Project, his nonprofit organization that exchanges postcards among random strangers to work towards changing stereotypes. “According to Chimamande Adichie, a single story leads to stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is that they are incomplete. They don’t tell the whole story,” he explained in his talk. “I thought, what if you could just write a little note, explaining the misconceptions of your neighborhood. That was the beginning of the Postcard Project.”
Cofounder of Anki Robotics Boris Sofman was another speaker who talked about his experience in robotics and in starting a company. He developed AnkiDrive, a fast-paced racing game that combines artificialintelligence technology and toys. In AnkiDrive, players can race their toy cars, without needing any opponents since the cars are individually programmed to function independently. Sofman believes that products such as these will define the future of children’s toys. “Robotics is a science of having a physical world meet a virtual program,” he said. “I think that [its] future is very bright.”
The conference was organized by Gunn’s TEDx club, which began in 2011 when students became inspired by Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) speeches that were being played in the library. Because of the club, Gunn earned recognition as the first high school to organize its own TEDx conference, and this year, the club made history yet again. It became the first high school to host a large-scale conference with over 1,000 attendees from local schools, companies and the community.
Organizing the annual event took a significant amount of preparation; the club began planning the event during the early part of 2013. They distributed surveys to the student body to understand what topics students would be most interested in hearing about. “We tried to find a diverse range of speakers—people from the arts, nonprofits, so on—so that it would interest everyone,” co-president junior Jamie Shen said. After deve
loping a shortlist, the students sent out letters and emails to potential speakers such as actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Chief Executive Officer of IDEO Tim Brown. The club also organized lighting, decided on a date and location, and ran the entire event.