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[by Kendra Hovey]

If you were at the last TEDxColumbus, you might remember Alex Bandar, the “visionary, metallurgist, connector” in the black jumpsuit determined to revive the lost art of making. In his talk, Bandar shared the big idea of the Columbus Idea Foundry (CIF) and his big dream to put it on wheels, park it at a high school and begin to transform American education and, along the way, American thinking, industry and innovation.

But the Idea Foundry is about more than a big idea. As the name suggests, lots of ideas come out of CIF, and in all sorts of sizes. One that Bandar had been bandying about—along with cohorts David and Carrie Chew—became a reality last March. A new conversation community with follow-up built-in, Convergence, as the realized idea is called, is a touch TEDx, but a bit more Kickstarter meets American Idol meets Royal Society of London (minus the wigs…sadly). The event is open to the public and due to repeat every three months or so. The purpose is to converge to examine “theories, struggles, and possibilities” for projects and then make those projects financially doable (by actually laying money on the table) and accountable, as well as, potentially continually supported (by following-up at the next Convergence).

There are some guidelines: The project must be “deemed bigger than a single person”; it should be “group-oriented so that members and potential members can learn beyond their expertise”; and the winner must report back on “how the project went, what worked, what didn’t, and what can be learned.”

The very first Convergence was held on March 1st at the Foundry—just off 5th Ave., where Corrugated Way meets Mobility. With the support of Turnstone and TEDxColumbus, the evening started and ended with tours, presentations, food and general socializing. In the middle, three Foundry members shared their projects. Then, the 100 or so in attendance had the opportunity to vote with their dollars. On the table that night: about $700 (an additional $600 or so was raised for the Cougar Robotics Team, a local high school robotics club).

 Of the three projects presented…

  1. A plan by steam-engine enthusiast Chip Rosenblum to build a dual-gauge train track.
  2. A LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) upgrade for Ethan Dicks’ “tourbot” (a remote-controlled camera, microphone and monitor).
  3. And, from event co-founder and co-organizer David Chew, a kinetic blue tree sculpture to be made of various sized pipes, possibly with “flame effects,” and to be outfitted with tree-dwelling creatures that could be controlled with switches and bellows by the audience.

…the win goes to…the kinetic blue tree sculpture.

 

Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at kendrahovey.com


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[by Kendra Hovey]

Barbara Fant is a performance poet. While this is true, as descriptions go, it’s a bit lacking; not quite capturing her rapid cascade of imagery, shrapnel-origami-kite-bee-hive-honey-lightning-Crayola, nor the swift and choppy flow of a line like, “It’s about be, it’s about be, it’s about bee, like honey, like gold, like glow, like sky.”

Both examples are from “Handfuls of Honey.” A poem which Fant performed at the last TEDxColumbus and one that speaks pretty effectively to what it is Fant does—from the personification of her words as “a nightmare at the back of my neck seeping through my throat” to the simple and clear-sighted offering: “I don’t know another way—to pray.”

Barbara Fant had been a last minute addition to the program. TEDxColumbus organizers (as every speaker forced to rehearse a million times over already knows) are not too keen on last minute anything, but having seen her a day earlier at TEDxYouth, they found five extra minutes plus 45 seconds. Fant made good use of the time; the audience gave her a standing ovation.

One of those impressed was Doug Kridler, CEO and president of The Columbus Foundation. Kridler commissioned Fant to create an original piece—with “no boundaries,” he says—for the Columbus Bicentennial. Fant read the poem at the Foundation as part of the city’s big birthday bash in February. Kridler calls it “an awe-inspiring and multi-hued articulation,” adding, “What an enduring gift she gave to everyone in our community through that poem.”

“Today Beginning Again,” as Fant titled her ode-of-sorts to the city, is part thank you note: “You geography-ed me,” “river-ed me;” “library-ed myself;” “honeyed me into reflection…” And, it’s part reminder card: “You can’t stop now.”

A video of her performance quickly made the social media rounds.

 

The 24-year-old Fant was asked to perform the poem again, this time by Mayor Coleman as part of the fanfare around his State of the City address. She can also be spotted in a couple of recent videos, “Voices of Columbus” and “Columbus Young Artists,” both sponsored by 200 Columbus (and various partners). Just last month she was a “feature” (invited guest) at a Poetry Slam in Detroit. Oddly, all this is happening at a time when the poet has been scaling back on performing. Her main focus these days is graduate school.

This may be news to many; a lot about Barbara Fant may be news. Added so late, her name didn’t make it onto the TEDxColumbus program, let alone her story. To fill things in, I caught up with Fant, finding her in Delaware, Ohio where she is nearing the end of her first year at the Methodist Theological School.

From “Handfuls of Honey” I know, to her, poetry is prayer, and when I ask how she would describe her work she calls it “poetic ministry,” so seminary school would seem to be a simple matter of connecting the dots, but when I ask, she quickly puts me straight. “Not at all, ” she says.

Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, Fant felt the call to preach at a very young age, and she can’t even remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing. Yet seminary and slams didn’t come into her life till much later, not until after she moved to Columbus for college. “I come from a church where pastors didn’t go to seminary,” she explains, “I didn’t know what it was!”

It was during her last year at Ohio Dominican (she graduated in 2010 with a degree in English) that she first considered seminary, and it was only a few years before that, when she was about 19, that she first performed her poetry. That night was important. It was an open mic, her first, and afterwards, she’d be at the mic three or four nights a week. But when I ask about when she became a poet, she doesn’t mention the mic, she answers by talking about her mom. “She passed away when I was 15,” Fant shares, “I was angry. I had a hard time talking to people…so I wrote.”

Fant wrote—put my pain on pages, as she says in “Handfuls of Honey”—but she didn’t share. While in Youngstown she learned about open mics, saw some on TV, and she knew that as soon as she could find one and get herself there, that’s when she would start sharing. From there, it was only a matter of months before she was competing.

Both as an individual and team member, she’s won a number of Grand Slams, and two years ago, at 22, she published her first book of poetry, Paint, Inside Out, which won the Cora Craig Author Award for Young Women. She’s slowed the pace a bit now that she is in grad school, but Fant still slams and runs the occasional workshop (she’s worked with Transit Arts and Columbus Collegiate Academy, among other organizations). Most recently, she’s been spending some time in the theater—yes, she also acts.

Her approach to writing poetry, Fant says, is to “paint pictures with words.” With “Today, Beginning Again,” for example, she was drawn to the idea of Columbus as a smart and open city, then starts to break that down: “I’ll ask, what does that look like? Open…bursting…firework…and it goes from there…I try to make it come alive.”

Asked, then, about coming from poetry to preaching and the interplay between the two, she sees some commonality, but also a clear divergence: “Both poems and sermons are journeys that the listener allows me to take them on…But I do not perform sermons. I teach and preach sermons. As I minister through poetry, I am able to give people more of me, my journey and my testimony. As a preacher, I surrender myself to being a minister of the Gospel and I allow only God’s word to shine through.”


Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at kendrahovey.com

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We’re thrilled to announce the 2011 TEDxColumbus line up.  After many months of nominations, interviews, conversations and research, the list is complete.

“The heart-and-soul of a TEDx event is the passion, talent, data, perspective and determination that comes through in every talk.  This year at TEDxColumbus the speakers and performers will offer a delicate balance of primary research, unbelievable life journeys, fascinating analyses and overall, really big ideas that will stretch every mind in the room.” said Ruth Milligan, Event Curator. “Everyone is assured to walk away with their own personal time capsule of experience and knowledge.”

In alphabetical order, those who will present include:

Alex Bandar– Visionary, Metallurgist, Connector
For a guy that doesn’t sleep much, Alex has an amazingly coherent vision for the world. Concerned with the death of “shop,” his vision for bringing a “maker” experience to the students in Columbus is only one part of his story. He’ll share how that vision is informed by his morning, noon and night passion (yes, different than his day job), where he’s quietly built one of the most dynamic collaboratives of engineers, artists and tinkerers in the region.

Mark Berman– Naturalist, Educator, Entomologist
Who cares about the bug?  Mark does.  And thinks you should too.  He’ll bring a unique lens to the two, four or ten legged creatures that in his opinion, can bring you perspective and maybe in return, a little respect.

David Burns– Innovator, Antagonist, Educator, Father
The pathway that David took to being a pioneer in the STEM/ 21st Century Learning Movement is a fascinating journey.  But what this leader knows about education makes him question: is education system viable anymore? He’ll uncover his own trepidation on this topic, fueled both by the irrelevant standards he faces in his daily work but also by the challenges of his three teenaged, college-contemplating children and how this impacts them.

Mike Figliuolo – Traveler, Teacher, Entrepreneur
While travel creates great stress and anxiety for many, some find it an amazing set of moments that illustrate the human condition.  Today Mike will share a different angle on his journeys and the interesting places they have taken him – and now, all of us.

Theresa Flores– Warrior, Vigilante, Advocate
Theresa’s passionate advocacy for one of the most vulnerable segments of our society is inspired by her own horrifying experience.  As she introduces you to a world far beyond your mind’s reach, she’ll show it can really be found next door.  And how one answer to it all might be found in a tiny bar of soap.

Jamie Greene– Planner, Architect, Collaborator
As our city has a moment in time as it turns 200 next year, Jamie will help guide hundreds of initiatives, events, promotions, exhibits, books and more into a year-long, collective commemoration.  But at the heart of it all, we’re curious, why does it matter?  In a brief reflection, Jamie will bring clarity to this question and inspire us to join in the movement.

Denny Griffith– Artist, Administrator, Visionary
Most creative individuals end up with more than one persona in life.  How do they support, conflict and interact with each other?  Denny will reveal his vulnerable insights from years searching for the balance between his public and private personas.

Claudia Kirsch– Radiologist, Artist, Pioneer
Claudia spends her life looking for hitchhikers, the kind that take ‘free rides’ along your nerves carrying cancer. Through her blend of science and a little art, she’s redefining how radiologists look at the most congested traffic site in our bodies: the head and neck. Her discoveries will inspire and may someday even save your life.

Maryanna Klatt–  Researcher, Yogi, Teacher
The impact of chronic stress on our health, productivity, and overall wellbeing can be catastrophic.  But how do you reduce it without adding one more thing to your life? Maryanna will reveal from her significant research initiatives that learning stress reduction techniques within the very ecosystem where we spend our days may be the most viable solution.

Dirk Knemeyer– Provocateur, Entrepreneur, Thinker
Dirk argues humanity took a wrong turn, but is getting close to finding its way again. After centuries of industrial production in inhuman ways and scales we now have the opportunity to turn our substantial capacity for remaking the world toward the most promising and unexplored of frontiers: ourselves. Dirk challenges us to view the future through the lens of the self.

Randy Nelson – Professor, Neuroscientist, Researcher
Dr. Nelson has a deep curiosity about the dark side of light at night.  His research will reveal that our passion for electrification has more complex consequences than can meet the sleeping eye.

Bart Overly–  Futurist, Architect, Thinker
As our population rapidly ages and lives much longer, how so might the habitats we have constructed for our comforts adapt to this change?  A global review of attitudes towards this longevity crisis (or opportunity) might enlighten design and development’s reaction towards it.  As a student of architecture, Bart will share his perspectives on this ever dynamic and somewhat troubling dilemma.

Janet Parrott– Filmmaker, Storyteller, Professor
The exploration of hospice was not one that Janet had planned to take, but found herself in South Africa doing just that.  As a filmmaker, Janet was equipped with tools to tell the story of a very different approach to what we embrace in America as hospice, but challenged by the pathway that took her there, having lost many personal friends to HIV/AIDS herself.  Janet will reveal the struggle that ensues when the creator becomes a part of the creation.

The Salty Caramels– Musical gumbo
With a suitcase bass drum, cast-iron skillet, heavy-gage chain and a musical saw as ingredients in their “musical gumbo”, you’d expect for the Salty Caramels to stand out, and that’s exactly what they do.

Adam Smith– Multi-Instrumentalist, Composer
His passion for fusing his Film and TV music experience, jazz idioms, art installations and free-improvised directions creates an extremely unique landscape for the adventurous musician and listener.

Rose SmithPoet
One of our many shared ‘moments’ at TEDxColumbus, Rose will delight us with her provocative poetry and engaging delivery. 

Trent Tipple – Survivor, Father, Scientist
In a touching reflection on the fragility of our existence, Trent will question our ability to truly appreciate what life has offered. He should know, he’s faced his own mortality three times.  And fortunately for his family, his patients and the world, he’s here to openly share that appreciation of his own.

Susan Willeke – Ethicist, Teacher, Steward
We’re told to keep an open mind, so why would Susan argue that we need some bias in our lives?  As an ethics trainer, she will compel you to recognize why your bias is helpful in keeping some societal order, but on occasion, how it drags us into some of our most regrettable mistakes.

 

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Thanks to a few generous sponsors who can’t use all of their TEDxColumbus tickets, we have now opened up a student scholarship lottery for seats TEDxColumbus on 11.11.11 at COSI.

If you are a student and cannot afford to attend but would like to, please register for the lottery here. Only students who can produce a student ID the day of the event will be eligible.

We will announce the winners on November 7th when every applicant will receive an email notifying them of the winners.

If you would like to help offset costs for students to attend, we welcome donations to the TEDx fund through this link

Thanks to all for your support!

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Jane Goodall is my hero. I love her compassion and dedication in working with chimpanzees in Tanzania. In this TED Talk, she describes how her team’s community projects for humans are helping the struggling people surrounding the chimpanzee’s habitat with clean water, farming techniques, and unexpectedly, a growing interest in conservation. Her commitment to both people and animals is creating an environment of peaceful coexistence for both.

Kate Storm
COSI
Director of Strategic Initiatives & Artist

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Tis the season to coordinate the curation of the third TEDxColumbus event.  We’ve been overhwelmed with speaker nominations, much to our delight.

We thought we’d share the main factors in how we sort, debate and choose the speakers as we head into the final inning of this process.

1. Chosen speakers generally fall into one of 3 categories:

     A. Primary researcher or original artist/author

     B. Primary observer of other people’s data from a unique lens

     C. Primary experiencer (our word) of a once in a lifetime event

2. Topics and ideas they speak on can be widely varying against our theme, but we aim for:

     A. Big and mind-bending

     B. Provocative and emotional

     C. Story/anecdote rich

3. Nominations not considered are:

     A. Anything remotely self promotional

     B. Policy talks – they are usually important but dry and often politically charged.

     C. Riffs – ie one sided, research-lacking, opinionated rants.

     D. Leadership and motivational talks

     E. Speakers who do not have an intrinsic tie to Columbus

 

Once we have vetted through if a speaker and topic are a potential fit, we look at the entire list altogether. This allows us to achieve balance in narrative style, native / foreign speakers, topic, gender and ethnic diversity.  This is the tough part of the process as we always end up leaving a good speaker or idea behind.  But the audience (you), would not appreciate only talks on education, or only talks by people who have overcome a life-threatening, heart-tugging obstacle.  The beauty of a live TEDx event is the connectivity one finds between diverse topics.

We don’t have an exact statistic on how long speakers take to prepare, but our rule of thumb is at least one hour per minute of presentation, particularly if it is a new talk (even on an old idea).  The first year we had one speaker leave town from his family for 3 days to work on his 12 minute talk. Let’s say it’s a notable commitment.

But the payoff if significant. Speakers know the audience is seeking new ideas and has a wide-open mind, the shared experience with the other speakers is quite amazing, and last but not least, the value of having a TEDx video online is a fairly huge perk.

We welcome your questions and suggestions as we continue to refine and improve our process. But we ask that you only give feedback if you have attended a live TEDx event.  Watching individual talks online is not an adequate judge of the wholistic experience we work to achieve for our audience every fall.

 

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Speaker nominations are now closed! We have received a wonderful list of potential presenters for this year’s event. We would like to thank everyone who took the time to nominate someone.

Now, it is the difficult job of our selection committee to gather and comb through the list and narrow down the prospects into an unparalleled mix of speakers that will create a unique “Moment in Time” on 11.11.11.

Keep checking back for more information on “A Moment in Time” and other TEDxColumbus events.

 

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We have decided to extend our speaker nominations through Friday, August 12! This allows all of you one more week to get your nominations in. We want to make sure we have a strong pool of talented speakers and performers from a variety of fields to choose from, so please keep the nominations coming!

We are working closely with our host, COSI, to create a memorable day of mind-bending talks and experiences that will be a moment in time you will never forget!

Keep checking back for the latest information about “A Moment in Time” on 11.11.11.

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