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Monday, January 30, 2012

Attend TEDx Sunnyvale's inaugural event, virtually

Have you ever attended a TEDx event? Well, I'm bringing one to you, virtually! On Saturday TEDx Sunnyvale hosted our first event. As an organizer, I had a great time both helping to put it together and being there to experience the videos with our audience. While many (probably most) TEDx events include live speakers, our team decided to focus on sharing only videos to create a day filled with some of the best pieces from the TED and TEDx archives.

Image credits with links are at the end of the post.

Our theme was "Prototypes" beginning with need, moving to concepts, and sharing both success stories and the value of failing.

We planned for an intimate audience where attendees would have the opportunity to mingle and get to know each other and we could get to know them. We even had a couple of drops ins who joined us.

If you would like to replicate the TEDxSunnyvale inaugural experience here's what you'll need:
  1. A computer connected to the internet
  2. Blueberry muffins
  3. Coffee
  4. Sandwiches
  5. Water
Ready? Here we go. . . Just click on the name of each speaker to watch the videos we watched that day in the order we presented them:

Session One - Prototype Theory

Erin McKean - Lexicographer

Need is one of the greatest motivators that compels people to create prototypes. Erin McKean discusses how need will someday cause someone to create a better, more complete, dictionary. (16 minutes)

Jason Halpern - Entrepreneur
The Journey from Start to Finish ... is it Ever Finished? A candid discussion about why not all prototypes are successful – but regardless, you can learn from each success and failure. (13 minutes)

Tom Wujec – Build a Tower, Build a Team
Tom’s “marshmallow problem” is a simple team-building exercise that makes clear our thought process and perception of success and reward can lead us down the wrong path when it comes to creating successful, imaginative, prototypes. (7 minutes)

Dale Daugherty - All of us are makers
MAKE magazine publisher Dale Dougherty says we’re all makers and creators at heart. This belief led him to creating MAKE magazine and one of my favorite annual events here in the Bay Area, Maker Faire. (12 minutes)

Eric Whitacre: A virtual choir 2,000 voices strong
The internet has created an opportunity for creative thinkers to come up with new ways to share traditional talents. In this fusion of old and new, composer and conductor Eric Whitacre leads a prototype, virtual choir of singers, from around the world. The results are breathtaking. (15 minutes)

Then came Lunch: Now is the time to eat your muffin and sandwich. If you want to recreate my experience make sure yours is a humus sandwich on wheat with water as your beverage :)

Refreshments were sponsored by Bellano Coffee and Tech Shop.

Session Two - Prototypes in Practice

Onyx Ashanti: This is Beatjazz
What happens when a musician becomes an inventor? You get Beatjazz. Onyx Ashanti's imaginative presentation made him one of TED 2012's full spectrum finalists. (7 minutes)

Nathan Myhrvold – Inventor
A new way to photograph food. Nathan Myhrvold talks about how the team at Modernist Cuisine, approached food photography in a whole new way creating vibrant images from a whole new perspective. (10 minutes)

Marcin Jakubowski – Farmer, Technologist
Practical prototypes are the ones that may change the most lives in the most significant ways. TED Fellow Marcin Jakubowski created open-source blueprints for 50 machines he determined were the most basic and vital, some for a tenth the cost of their counterpart manufactured products. (4 minutes)

Zach Kaplan & Keith Schacht – Inventables guys
The Inventables guys, Zach Kaplan and Keith Schacht, demo some unexpected and fun new materials and designs. Some have the audience laughing and the responses from some public street interviews will have you laughing too. (16 minutes)

Sonaar Luthra: Meet the Water Canary
Unwilling to accept that to test safe drinking water had to be an expensive and time consuming process Sonaar created a device that will save lives in the aftermath of tragedies
. (4 minutes)

Commercials - The Fun Theory - Not TED related
What happens when you take an everyday object and transform it into a fun prototype that creates a fun and behavior changing result? (5 minutes)

Johnny Lee – Wii Hacker
Johnny Lee uses Wii Remotes to prototype an interactive whiteboard and a head-tracking system. Instead of thousands of dollars his prototypes can built for less than a hundred. (6 minutes)

JC Dill - Before our finale video, photographer JC Dill shared with us how she created her ethereal and unique Sublimation series of images that she generously brought and displayed for our guests to enjoy.

Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez - Entrepreneurs/Urban Farming
A bucket was the first prototype in design that led to a symbiotic, eco-friendly business model that in its own right is also a prototype of how seemingly random companies can work together to create a product and business model beneficial to all. (14 minutes)

Well that wraps it up. I hope you enjoyed our presentation. For me, the underlying connective thread was that you have to be aware of opportunities to improve the way things have been done in the past, one can't allow convention to stop you from being imaginative and you shouldn't allow fear to stop you from trying to bring to fruition an idea that others may not understand or believe in. As a maker, performer or designer you have to create, a lesson I learned today by art authority Sylvia White. It's part of you. It's in your DNA. It's what you do and who you are so don't let anyone stifle your passion to explore possibilities that present themselves to you.

Here's how we did it. TechShop San Jose allowed us to use their conference room to host our event.

For several weeks beforehand our team (Gordon, Dave, Brenton and I) met at a local coffee shop and sorted out how to build our website, we set up our Facebook and Twitter pages, located our sponsors, came up with a marketing plan, and made our video selections.

The day before the event Gordon and I met at the venue at 10:00 AM.

We wanted to check out the room set up and make sure we knew what we needed for Saturday. We soon discovered we didn't need my portable projection screen. Make that my tiny, portable, projection screen. LOL

Then we thought we could use the screen to block light coming in through a large front window. But we ended up filling the window with black paper donated by photographer JC Dill. It was a much better solution.

We pulled a bit of an all nighter so Gordon provided me with an impressive snack bar.

You know how they say a watched pot never boils? Well turns out a watched laser cutter still cuts. LOL. That's Gordon checking on our custom, wood, laser cut, name tags.

See that bright, white line on the left side of the picture? That's the laser burning through the wood.

TechShop has an Epilog Helix laser cutter.

It cut 36 name tags out of one sheet of wood.

Ta da!

The wood was just barely connected. The tags snapped apart.

The edges were blackened by the laser. We thought it looked cool!

The next morning Brenton and Dave were like Santa's elves snapping them apart and punching out the holes for the lanyard clips.

An unanticipated consequence of burning the tags apart was the singed edge was black because it was covered in soot. In all honesty we didn't have time to wipe down the edges of all of the tags so we decided to extend the "prototype" and "maker experience" to our guests by giving them a paper towel and the opportunity to finish their own name tags. Seemed like a winner of an idea and everyone was great about helping us out :) We had a great audience!

I'm really looking forward to working on our next event. If you can't wait until then there are plenty more videos to watch online. Go see for yourself. TED and TEDx are both overflowing with inspiration and with over 10,000 videos there are plenty of opportunities to be inspired by TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design). 

Thank you to all of our sponsors: TechShop, Bellano Coffee, JC Dill Photography, 37 Signals, LiveWorld and TEDxConstitution Drive.

Speaker Images Credits - Erin McKena, Jason Halpern, Tom Wujec, Dale Daugherty, Eric Whitacre, Onyx Ashanti, Nathan Myhrvold, Marcin Jakubowski, Zach Kaplan & Keith Schacht, Sonaar Luthra, Johnny Lee, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez.

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