Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Upcoming TEDx event to encourage 'crazy ideas'

The intellectual equivalent of a U-M football game, in terms of community involvement, is what the organizers of the upcoming TEDxUofM conference hope the event turns out to be.

The ideas convention, from 10 a.m-5 p.m. April 8 at the Michigan Theater, will feature 23 innovative U-M professors, alumni and students with globally oriented minds, organizers say. Webcast live and streamed on three screens across campus, conference planners hope to get more than 100,000 people to tune in or attend.


SOE's Bob Bain plays key role in
Bill Gates' Big History project

Bob Bain is guiding the pedagogy for the Big History Classroom Project, creating a problem-based, technology-rich high school course in Big History. Co-creators Bill Gates and David Christian announced the project March 2 at the 2011 TED conference.

Bain is an associate professor, School of Education; and an associate professor, Department of History, LSA.

Big History is a multi-disciplinary approach to history that places the human past within the largest context possible, from the beginnings of the universe up until life on the Earth today.

The Big History Classroom Project is a comprehensive project designed to develop a tested and refined problem-based curriculum for high school students and professional development programs, assessment tools, and technology needed to support quality instruction for all students.

The pilot project will be implemented over the next two years in the U.S. and in Australia.

— Submitted by the School of Education

"On Saturdays in the fall, football unites the entire U-M community — not just current students, but alumni all over the world and faculty and staff. We're trying to do that on an intellectual level," says Austin Konig, a junior in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business who helped put the conference together, along with a group of 65 students from across campus.

Participants will hear from an aerospace engineering student who vowed to produce no trash for one year, a Law School alumnus working to free the imprisoned winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, and a professor who designed a low-cost, safe male circumcision tool to reduce the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.

Doctoral student Darshan Karwat, 2001 Law School alumnus Jared Genser and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Kathleen Sienko are just a few of the speakers on the eclectic agenda of maverick thinkers. The theme of the daylong event is "encouraging crazy ideas," inspired by a column President Mary Sue Coleman wrote in Forbes magazine in August.

"We're taking her message to heart," Konig says. "We hope this is a time to pause and recognize all the entrepreneurial possibilities that surround us. Not only do we want to showcase the ideas that students, alumni and faculty here have, ultimately we want to inspire our audience to pursue their own crazy ideas."

Participants will hear 20 presentations from eight students, nine faculty members and six alumni, including:

• School of Art & Design 1971 alumnus Chris Van Allsburg, who twice won the Caldecott Medal for writing and illustrating "Jumanji" and "The Polar Express."

• Sean Morrison, Henry Sewall Professor in Medicine and director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology, who researches the mechanisms that regulate stem cell self-renewal, aging and organ formation in the nervous and blood forming systems.

• Red Simmons, the 101-year-old founder of the U-M women's track team who still climbs the stairs at Crisler Arena for exercise several times a week.

• Donia Jarrar, a master's musical composition student whose blog translated into English the phone messages Egyptians sent to Speak to Tweet, a Google/Twitter service that enabled tweeting without an Internet connection. At the height of the revolution, her blog received more than 10,000 views per day.

"We're going to take people on a roller coaster," says Alex O'Dell, a junior in public policy who founded the TEDxUofM conference last year and is leading the effort this year. "All of our speakers are innovative people who have taken a risk on something they're passionate about."

The conference is open to the public. Registration is required. To read a full list of speakers, register or watch the conference via webcast, go to The event will be shown live on screens at North Quad, the Duderstadt Center and the Shapiro Library lobby.

TED is a California- and New York-based nonprofit dedicated to "ideas worth spreading." It conducts conferences all over the world, and allows local groups to organize their own similar "TEDx" events.