TEDxISU comes to Florida Tech for a day of ideas worth sharing

By Drew Lacy, Communication ‘14

When I first heard Florida Tech would be hosting a TEDx event right here on campus, I was more than a little excited. I’d always thought TED Talks were something held exclusively in huge auditoriums in places far from Melbourne, Florida. I had no idea that TEDx events – independently organized TED Talks – even existed. The event coincided with the International Space University’s (ISU) Space Studies Program which has been taking place on campus all summer. (Check out my previous blog post about ISU. )

If you’ve never heard of a TED Talk and you’re currently staring at the screen with some level of confusion, don’t fret. TED Talks are brief presentations by talented speakers from around the world, each with an idea to share; it’s the very slogan of TED: “Ideas worth sharing.” It might sound like an underwhelming concept, but its very simplicity is what makes it such a powerful project.

Don’t believe me? Give Peter Diamandis, a speaker shown on video at the event, 15 minutes of your time. In a speech that perfectly sums up the very essence of TEDxISU, he touches on what I found to be an underlying theme during our event: optimism.

Video: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/peter_diamandis_abundance_is_our_future.html

The subject of our TEDxISU event was, as you might guess, space. Space exploration, space technology, SpaceX – it was all there.

I’ll admit that I came in a little jaded. This talk was happening nearly a year after NASA ended its space shuttle program. I’d grown up at a place and time where being able to  stand barefoot in the driveway and watch the glowing form of a rising space shuttle was a family tradition, perhaps taken for granted. Following such an abrupt end to such an iconic era, what would a TEDx about space have to offer the Space Coast?

TEDxISU, Space Science
Jeff Manbur

As I found out, TEDxISU viewed the situation differently. Rather than ending an era, we were starting a new chapter in the book of space exploration. It was a sentiment of optimism expressed by every speaker, and possibly most succinctly by commercial space entrepreneur Jeffery Manber:

“NASA is our landlord, not our competitor.”

It was a refreshing new way to look at the role of NASA after the space shuttle program.

TEDxISU, Space Science
Sarah Jane Pell

These experts – astronauts, artists, inventors, entrepreneurs – all spoke about space exploration with an optimism and passion that we’ve all missed over the past year. From diver and dancer Sarah Jane Pell’s poetry on the complex but essential relationship of creativity and science to Odyssey Space Research CEO Brian Rishikof’s talk on sending iPhones to space, it was clear that the future of space exploration is one of innovation and cooperation.

As SpaceX and other companies delve into commercial space, TEDxISU delivered a strong message: the end of the space shuttle program was only the beginning of a new world of opportunities. For us at Florida Tech and everywhere else on the Space Coast: our future in space exploration is looking bright.

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