Annual TEDx event features speakers who “dare to differentiate”

Shreya Srinivasan
Alycia Cary (12) gives a talk about how to view the fear of ambiguity and categorical thinking at TEDx on Saturday. Senior speakers are chosen after a process of filling out an application about their interests and being interviewed by the TEDx team.

by Shreya Srinivasan, TALON Reporter

Students, teachers and other members of the Harker community heard talks from several speakers and interacted with local companies and industry mentors at the annual TEDxHarkerSchool event in Nichols Auditorium on Saturday.

This year’s event theme, Dare to Differentiate, highlighted professionals in the Bay Area who are making their voices heard in unique ways.

The event started with traveler and author Francis Tapon, who spoke about being a black sheep and seeking unique opportunities. Writer Arjanna Van Der Plas followed Tapon with her talk about her plan to collect stories from 100 homeless people who live in San Francisco. The next featured speaker, Jianxiong Xiao or Professor X, spoke about his company AutoX and the future of automated retail services.

Dr. Atul Butte, the chief data scientist of the University of California health system, talked about combing two passions into one in order to be successful in more than one field.

“It’s a lot more fun to be really really good at two things rather than to try to be the very best at one thing,” Dr. Butte said in an interview with Harker Aquila. “If you pick two things, chances are no one else in the world has picked those same two things, so it’s a much easier way to go through life. I mixed computers and medicine; someone else will mix 3D printing and surgery, or surgery and augmented reality.”

I feel ultimately that it is an ideal that we’re spreading, and I think it especially resonates with people in the Bay Area community.

— Alycia Cary (12), TEDx student speaker

His daughter, sophomore Kimi Butte, finds the message that her father is sending will teach students about more opportunities in biology.

“My friend wanted to be a biologist except for the dissections, so I told her that biology isn’t necessarily all about doing dissections. There are other parts of biology, such as molecular biology or what my dad does, which is more medicine and computer-based rather than dissecting,” Kimi said. “I think it’s a really good message to get a lot of people who don’t like dissections to get involved in biology.”

In addition to the four professionals, the event also featured a student speaker—Alycia Cary (12). Her talk was based on her experience of being multiracial as a lens through which to view our fear of ambiguity and categorical thinking.

“I think mainly the reason I wanted to be a speaker at TEDx came from the message that I wanted to share. It’s something that’s very close to my heart and something that I’ve been really focused on sharing through speech and debate circuit this year,” Alycia said.

The event also featured booths from ten Bay Area companies ranging from a pedal powered smoothie bike to AstroReality, the creator of LUNAR models or 3D astronomical models, to Skydio, a company that is working to incorporate object and face recognition into drones.

The TEDx officer team began planning the event and reaching out to speakers at the end of the previous school year, specifically focusing on inviting speakers, booths and mentors that embodied their theme.

“Our PR team went and looked through a lot of lists such as the Forbes list and stuff like that. We looked for people who put their life towards following something which we thought was Dare to Differentiate,” Taylor said. “After we contacted them, we let them know our theme and said would you be interested, and if they also thought their idea was something that differentiated from regular day-to-day life, they would respond back and we would go from there.”

After the speakers wrapped up their talks, attendees of the event went to the mentor luncheon, where they were able to meet with people who work in several different fields such as marketing and finance and learn more about their careers.

“I feel ultimately that it is an ideal that we’re spreading, and I think it especially resonates with people in the Bay Area community,” Alycia said.