TEDxUTChattanooga debuts ideas worth sharing

TEDxUTChattanooga debuts ideas worth sharing

Chattanooga version of popular 'ideas worth sharing' talks

October 26th, 2014 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Dr. Hill Craddock, professor of biological environmental sciences at UTC, gives a presentation about chestnut trees at the first-ever TEDxUTChattanooga.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Kim White, president and CEO of River City Co., gives a presentation about changes to Chattanooga at the first-ever TEDxUTChattanooga, an independently organized local staging of the international TED program, on Saturday at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Fine Arts Center. Speakers gave presentations interpreting the overall topic, "Now what?"

Kim White, president and CEO of River City...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Have trouble using Excel spreadsheets?

Don't worry, it's not your fault.

That message got Jackson Stone, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga computer science student, loud applause and cheers Saturday morning from an audience that came to the first-ever TedxUTChattanooga, an independently organized version of the popular TED talks, which stands for technology, entertainment and design.

A dozen people -- two of whom were UTC students -- took turns standing on a round, reddish-orange carpet in front of a white, leather IKEA couch. They spoke to a crowd that halfway filled the UTC's Ward Theater in the Fine Arts Center.

"What if I told you it's not your fault?" Stone said about the "poor user experience" that white-collar office workers experience daily on their productivity software. "It doesn't need to be this way."

On the screen behind him, Stone displayed side-by-side screen shots of Excel and Photoshop circa 1995 and 2013 -- that showed each programs' fundamental layout has hardly changed. Then he showed a clunky-looking 1995 computer video game and compared it to a screen shot of a lifelike modern-day video game.

"It's staggering, the difference," said Stone, who said today's workplace computers have about 500 times the capability of they did in 1995.

Stone used video game software to develop software during his internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Two large buildings at Oak Ridge are equipped with hundreds of sensors that researchers use to test the energy efficiency of materials used to build offices and other large buildings.

Instead of just spitting out numerical data, Stone's simulation lets the researchers do such things as fly around inside the buildings.

"It actually put a smile on their face," he told the audience.

Fifty people applied to speak at the event, which limited talks to 19 minutes or less.

"I rehearsed a lot," said Marcus Ellsworth, who spoke about how art can be a road map for progress.

He emcees Wide Open Floor, an open mic event held monthly at Barking Legs Theater on Dodds Avenue for singers, songwriters, dancers and other performers.

"I wouldn't say [speaking's] hard," Ellsworth said before he went on state. "But I spend a lot of time on stage speaking."

The event was limited to 100 audience members, who paid $45 ($25 for students) and had to be accepted by a screening committee in order to attend.

"I've been watching TED talks for years," said attendee Daniel Randolph, a 2010 UTC grad who teaches English as a Second Language at Red Bank Middle School and Red Bank High School.

The talks also were broadcast live online and in two auditoriums on campus.

The talks given Saturday in Chattanooga eventually will be uploaded to TED's Youtube channel, said Linda Frost and David Levine, the UTC faculty members in charge of organizing Saturday's event along with students, who came up with the idea. They hope to bring the event back next year to a larger audience in a larger venue.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/tim.omarzu or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.