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Students orchestrate Gunn’s fourth annual TEDx event

Written by Aayush Dubey

On Fri. Jan. 16, Gunn organized the fourth annual TEDx conference. The event was hosted in the Gunn Spangenberg Theatre and featured 12 presentations with 14 speakers, five of whom were Gunn students.
According to their website, Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) is a non-profit organization devoted to spreading various ideas in the form of short and powerful talks coming from volunteer speakers. Senior co-president of TEDx Gabriel Alon says that the conference theme for the event at Gunn this year was “realizing the vision.”
Co-advisor Eric Ledgerwood says that the TEDx speakers presented on their work in different fields and shared many human-interest stories. “The presentations drew the audience by connecting people and the world around you,” Ledgerwood said.
Senior Soumithri Bala was one of the speakers at the event. He presented his experience with 3-dimensional printers, their impact on the future and their current applications. According to Bala, he signed up to speak because he wanted to spread awareness on the importance of 3D printers. “3D printers are really cool and have awesome applications,” Bala said. “They have the potential to change the way we look at things on a daily basis.”
The club gathered adult speakers by sending out forms over the summer. They also had 15 competitive auditions for the student speakers, a process which Alon felt was necessary to find students with the most relevant stories. After narrowing down their decisions, the club edited and gave feedback for each speaker on their speeches over the next few months.
According to Ledgerwood, this year’s conference managed to show presentations for 700 people, which is the largest audience Gunn TEDx has had since it began four years ago. “It was a rare opportunity for a small group of students to put up an event for 700 people,” Ledgerwood said. “To have an audience that size and to have it essentially be solely student led is a not-to-be-missed opportunity.”
According to co-advisor Jessica Hexsel, the average TEDx event costs $8,000, so organizing a free event is rare. Co-president Junior Justin Kim believed that having the event at Gunn was important. “It was about bringing the TEDx experience to Gunn because not everybody has the opportunity to go to a TEDx conference. It costs a lot of money.” Kim said. “We try to make it more local so that high school students can have that same experience.”
According to Alon, a lot of work went into planning the event. In addition to learning new camera and videography techniques from professional videographers, there was a big investment into both the time and responsibility for the event. “It’s a huge time commitment on both of our parts and for members that joined [the club],” Kim agreed.
Ledgerwood and Hexsel both feel that the students took a lot of responsibility this year. As co-advisors of the club, their main responsibility was to provide resources and laptops—they give most credit to the student organizers of the event. “No one gets a chance to put on that kind of show with such minimal adult supervision,” Ledgerwood said. “The [organizers] took a lot on themselves.”
Alon felt that Gunn students had a similar experience that an audience at a TEDx event would receive. He explained that a student could watch a TED video online easily, but there is a bigger difference if a student attends a conference. “The heart of the matter is that you get the most out of it when you are watching a speaker live, since you become immersed in their charisma and ideas.” Alon said. “The goal with TEDxGunnHighSchool is to bring together the community on multiple levels through sharing ideas worth spreading and through teamwork amongst students, teachers and parents to put the annual event together.

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