What if there was a way to combat climate change with concrete? How can reading save the world? How can we think differently about current limitations and discover new possibilities?
These were the kind of questions flying around the room at Re.Imagine, the Laguna Blanca School’s 3rd TEDx event put on by students.
Hundreds gathered at the Laguna Blanca campus Wednesday for a day of lectures and activities, featuring speakers from Santa Barbara’s backyards to across the world. In addition to Laguna students and families, students attended from Harding Elementary, Crane School, La Colina Junior High and La Cumbre Junior High.
Sixteen scientists, athletes, chefs, students and more spoke on topics like gene editing, cultural biases, masculinity and vulnerability, and changing what is wrong with the world all under the Re.Imagine theme.
The production team of 19 students chose “Re.Imagine” because it was their attitude going into their third TEDx. The last two years the theme has been Evolve and Uncharted, and now that the students feel they know the ropes, they wanted to rework the event while staying true to the themes of exploration and growth.
“We have really gone along with that essence and reimagined literally everything that we have produced. Stage design, music, programs, logos, you name it. We’ve really had a lot of creative freedom within the theme this year,” said Emma Raith, a senior on the Executive Production team who oversaw design.
When curating the speakers for this year’s event, the students wanted lectures that would shape a new vision for science, art, technology and society, while encouraging listeners to “rebel against what’s been done before, and to re-discover truths about society, systems, and the world around us.”
Several of the lectures focused on how technology can help us rethink the world’s problems and find new solutions.
“The Belongingness Hypothesis says that humans are inherently driven to connect with others to form and maintain strong relationships. This is something I explore in my research. I look at different ways of connecting with other people using technology,” said Misha Sra, an assistant professor and director of the Perceptual Engineering Lab in the computer science department at UCSB.
Ms. Sra told the audience about her program “Oasis,” which allows users to scan their surroundings into augmented reality with their phone, where the program generates an environment where people can interact with each other in a virtual landscape.
Gabriel Falzone, a research scientist at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, told the audience how he looked at one of the most popular building materials in the world and found a way to reduce its carbon footprint.
Mr. Falzone shared his concrete production method using CO2 Mineralization that halves the carbon produced.
“(TEDxLagunaBlancaSchool) has allowed these kids to understand the feeling of creating a compelling vision together, to collaborate towards a meaningful goal while being trusted with freedom. It allows them to plan something that allows them to both spread their values while acquiring new skills, and most importantly to know the feeling of finding real meaning in the work that you do,” said Allison Armstrong, the lead faculty guide for the event.
From the level of professionalism, it wouldn’t be surprising if the students were already well acquainted with the motivational talks Wednesday.
Whether they were sharing a new project or their life story, each speaker shared words of inspiration with the audience.
Jesse Graff shared her story of suffering a typically career ending injury to go on to compete in American Ninja Warrior and win “Stuntwoman of the Year” for her work on Wonder Woman and Supergirl. Asmau Ayub challenged the audience to reject stereotypes as she told of how she as a Muslim woman worked through biases in Ghana to become Executive Director of the Rayuwa Foundation.
After completing an incredible painting of an owl in just 10 minutes, artist Amy Burkman shared how art as therapy had empowered her as a survivor of small cell ovarian cancer.
“I can honestly say that amazing and unimaginable things have come from this experience. I was given another opportunity to see my own strengths, to reevaluate, and to start over yet again. I woke up and realized life is only as limited and mundane as we allow it to become,” Ms. Burkman told the audience.
Three students, selected from a pool of 10 applications, also gave lectures Wednesday. Sophomore Madeleine Nicks presented her perspective on the stigma surrounding the period, and explained where it comes from and how to change perceptions. Eighth-grader Noah Olorin shared his love for storytelling and song with a performance with his middle-school bandmates.
The youngest of the bunch, seventh-grader Aydin Alsan, spoke about how AI can be used to fight malnutrition and food waste by connecting farmers with local markets and maximizing production. He hopes to continue developing his project and feels inspired by the event.
“I took a speech and debate class last year and I really enjoyed it, and now I did this and that adds on to my interest in public speaking. I think it’s something I’d like to do in the future,” said Aydin.
Senior executives Kiki Tolles and Ms. Raith have taken the lead bringing TEDx to Laguna Blanca the last three years, but as they prepare to leave for college they are confident the program is in good hands. As Ms. Tolles and Ms. Raith organized Re.Imagine, they worked alongside Junior Executives Frances Carlson and Lily Connor teaching them the ins and outs. They are excited to see where TEDxLagunaBlancaSchool goes from here, said Ms. Raith.
“When you change management like in any company or something totally new stuff comes out of it because there’s a fresh perspective, so it will be cool to see what happens to this event in the following years,” said Ms. Tolles.