TEDx PurdueU tackles many facets of ‘innovation’
Written by TechPurdue // March 23, 2012 // Admitted Students, Alumni & Friends, Business & Industry, Computer and Information Technology, Computer Graphics Technology, Current Students, Faculty & Staff, TechBytes // 1 Comment
by Steven Lincoln, senior writer/editor for the College of Technology
The TED phenomenon came to the Purdue campus March 22 as TEDx PurdueU brought together a wide array of speakers focused on innovation. It is a testament to the TED brand that all seats for two sessions were spoken for before the speaker roster was even released. And those attendees were treated with great ideas, inspiring stories, and good advice to take with them.
The College of Technology was one of the sponsors for the event, and we had ties to four of the presenters. But the event showed that our college is just one part of a bigger, innovative whole that is connected by the Purdue name. Innovative ideas are not relegated to the fields technology or engineering. They can be found wherever a challenge presents itself. Innovation comes from a person’s passion for a cause, idea or discipline.
Here’s an overview of what I took away from my first TEDx experience (I wasn’t able to fit in all speakers, though they are all worthy of noting):
Several speakers talked about what it took for them to be successful in their businesses.
- Jason Tennenhouse, director of Purdue Christian Campus House and founder of Greyhouse Coffee and Supply Co., asked us to look at innovation in a new way. Some people pursue new challenges because they “have to” or “want to”. Tennenhouse believes a more telling way is to pursue something when you “can’t not do it”, when “the present looks broken in light of the new idea.”
- Michael Fry, founder of Fancy Fortune Cookies, inspired us all to be INSANE (Ingeniously Not Safe and Normal Entrepreneur), giving examples of people with outlandish ideas that changed the way business is done.
- Bill Sinunu, co-founder of Globally Hip, talked about how his multicultural upbringing helped inspire his work on improving communication across cultures. When he realized he had some deep-seated animosity toward Turkish people, he wondered how he could get rid of that. Someone told him that he would need to find a Turkish person who is fighting for peace. It helped and should be a lesson to us all.
Others talked about their specific innovative ideas and the motivations behind them:
- Amanda Schoolcraft, a senior in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, is focused on a project she calls “Amaguru”, which is a Rwandan word for “legs.” She wants to create prosthetic legs that grow with their wearer so that they don’t need to be replaced every six months. Her motivation is Jeanette, an 8-year-old girl who lost both of her legs during recent violence in Rwanda. Two other Purdue students are working with Amanda to achieve her goal. Read more at www.giveamaguru.org.
- Tahira Reid, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, took a third grade science project from “what she wants” to a working prototype later in life. It was an automated double-dutch jump rope machine – something she needed, as an only child, to continue her favorite activity at home. She benefited from constant encouragement from teachers, friends and family.
- Steve Werely, professor of mechanical engineering, helped quantify the size and scope of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The nature of the spill, coming from deep water and mixed with dispersant, made the normal calculations based on surface measurements inaccurate. He showed his initial calculations, scribbled on a pharmaceuticals notepad, that changed the way the spill was viewed. Werely focused on clouds of oil coming from the pipe, tracked their speed and volume, and used that information to calculate the pipe’s flow rate.
- Kyle Bowen, director of informatics for Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP) discussed his motivation for creating useful mobile and web applications to improve student success in the classroom. Why can’t the classroom evolve with the outlook of digital natives (aka today’s students), he asks. The products he has worked on have shown success in keeping students engaged, which leads to better learning.
- Philip Low, professor of chemistry and chief science officer for Endocyte, excited the audience with the possibilities of treating cancer, heart disease and more. His company is able to target cancer cells with flouresence, which in turn glow enough for surgeons can find them for easier removal.
- Erica Morin, a Ph.D. candidate in history, provided the rationale for her innovative approach to teaching history. History is more than just the headlines, which is what we are usually taught. She goes over the headlines, and then focuses most of her lecture on the rest of the stories in the paper, which more often reflect the wants and needs of a society or subset of the population. “Students are learning a more inclusive historical narrative behind the headlines,” she says.
- Mike Kane, associate professor of computer and information technology, talked about his work with personalized medicine based on a person’s genetic makeup. His work can help reduce adverse drug reactions and improve the efficacy of medicine.
Favorite quotes from the day
- “Get a passport. It’s the most important asset you’ll ever have (except for a child),” Art Norins, CEO of Nor1
- “Do something everyday. Be humble. Break free [of others’ expectations],” Matt Barnes, professional free-runner
- “You have something to contribute. What are you sitting on that only you can do to make a difference?” Tahira Reid, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
- “We live in science fiction. It can inspire a new classroom,” Kyle Bowen, director of informatics for Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), CGT ‘99
- “There’s more to history than wars and white guys,” Erica Morin, Ph.D. candidate in history
- “It is important to tell stories of people who don’t make the front page – these people are also creating history,” Erica Morin, Ph.D. candidate in history