TEDxASU speakers see 'boundless' potential for this year's event

Speakers preview their presentations for the third annual TEDxASU event

TED Talks are a source of inspiration and fascination for many — and for the third year in a row, ASU students will have a TED event of their own.

The third annual TEDxASU is set for March 31, 2018 at the Tempe Center for the Arts. The theme of this year’s event will be “Boundless,” and each speaker found a different way to incorporate this theme into their presentation.

Jason Thompson, an assistant professor in ASU's School of Music who also instructs the ASU Gospel Choir, will be speaking at the event. He said his talk will be called “The Gospel of Musical Inclusion,” adding that the word “gospel” doesn’t necessarily have a religious meaning in this context, but rather that he will focus on the truth — more specifically, the “gospel truth,” as Thompson puts it.

“I’m hoping that people leave my talk learning more about the necessity to include and be inclusionary,” Thompson said. 

He said he sees some issues with certain types of music being deemed less important at the university level than forms like western classical music.

“What does that say about people who like that music, or perform that music, or create that music?” Thompson said.

He said his talk is inspired by his gospel choir and how inclusive it is. He said he teaches anyone from agnostics to Christian lesbians, and that “this belief in the power and the potential of making music together … that’s the wonderfulness that our university ensemble has.”

“I’m hoping that my talk makes people go home and go: ‘Hmm… What have I counted out that I maybe need to count back in?’” Thompson said.

Tanya Harrison, director of research for the ASU Space Technology and Science Initiative, will also be speaking at this year’s TEDxASU event. Harrison said the main focus of her talk will be on “citizen science, and how people can get involved in contributing to human knowledge and benefiting society.” 

She said she hopes to show people that they can be involved in scientific work even without being a professional scientist.

Harrison said "it was actually really difficult to try to write something that was not a science talk” as someone with a scientific background. 

She said her talk is based on her experiences working on Mars missions and will share with the audience “the emotional journey” through her own personal story.

“To try and get inspired to write this, I tried watching a bunch of different talks to kind of get an idea of what (it is) that hooks people,” Harrison said. 

She specifically recalled a TED Talk about branding, in which the speaker focused on the language of branding and marketing. Harrison said she saw in this talk a good strategy to explain why she loves science and space, and potentially inspire others to pursue it as well.

“I would really like (the audience) to leave being curious,” Harrison said.

Ali Bahremand is a research aide at ASU and a senior studying software engineering. He is delivering a TEDxASU talk is about the boundless potential of virtual reality. He said he plans to show people what he has accomplished in his VR endeavors in hopes of inspiring them to find their own passions.

“I think that many people can empathize with this, because everyone has their own form of art, to some degree, and this technology can be integrated with that lifestyle.”

Bahremand said that he got into virtual reality with no tech background whatsoever, coming instead from an art background. 

“A year ago when I started, I knew nothing about virtual reality, and now any time people have VR questions or AR (augmented reality) questions, they come to me for the most part," he said.

Bahremand said a friend urged him to apply when the TEDxASU talk was announced,  and he received nominations from other friends. 

“It felt empowering, and it felt like the right choice,” he said.

After watching a TED Talk done by a D.J. who performed a live sample of his music, Bahremand said he loved the idea of a live demo and decided that he would incorporate that technique into his own presentation.

“I want people to get the theme of enablement … find what enables you because you can enable others through this,” Bahremand said.

Reach the reporter at japere38@asu.edu or follow @jsphprzprof on Twitter.

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