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Inspirational speeches motivate students at Canyon Crest Academy TED event

Mark Liu displays a quadcopter that was laser cut. Photo/Jon Clark
Mark Liu displays a quadcopter that was laser cut. Photo/Jon Clark

By Diane Welch

Twentieth century visionary Buckminster Fuller once said, “We are called to be architects of the future...” and this was the message, and the theme, shared with over 400 students from schools around the county who convened at Canyon Crest Academy High School (CCA) on Nov. 18, Universal Children’s Day.

Fuller’s phrase, “Architects of the future,” served as the foundation for this inspirational day organized by TEDxYouth@San Diego, an independently organized TED event which showcased motivational speakers who shared their groundbreaking ideas, through entertaining and powerful messages.

During four sessions, or stories as they were termed that day to accentuate the architectural theme, students engaged with big thinkers and doers of all ages and backgrounds who have pushed the boundaries of their endeavors which span science, art, technology, environment, humanity and more. The thematic sessions metaphorically built from foundation to framing, construction to interior.

Between each speaking session students rotated through 15 interactive exhibits in technology, health and environment, and personal reflection. These exhibits included a specially designed concept car with an opportunity for students to submit ideas to the car manufacturer for future iterations of design; Emoki animal ears powered by the wearer’s brainwaves; LEGO building stations, and more.

During the Foundation session, Dr. Larry Smarr, professor of computer science and information technologies at the University of California, San Diego, and founding director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Technology (Calit2) spoke about the importance of healthy nutrition and obesity. “We are trapped in a culture that is trying to sell us things that ruin our body,” he told the audience as he showed data on obesity statistics and the amount of sugar individuals consume annually that leads to this obesity. “Learn to think for your self,” he stressed, “Arm yourself with knowledge...be the CEO of your own body.”

Smarr, who showed 3D images of his own internal organs through software created by Jurgen Schulze, said he hopes that the students will learn how their body works and what should be put into them to make them healthy, to have the tools to independently think their way beyond how society urges them to make wrong nutrition choices. “Otherwise this obesity epidemic will bankrupt this country,” he cautioned.

During the Construction session, independent British musician Alex Day talked animatedly about his unlikely rise to stardom. Now with over half a million songs sold on iTunes, and landing fourth in the British pop charts during Christmas week last year, above Adele and Coldplay, Day, who has no agent, label or PR machine, went from obscurity to “the future of music” as Forbes dubbed him. The video of his latest song, “Good Morning Sunshine,” had the audience tapping their feet and singing along. “Always chase unrealistic goals,” Day said in closing.

Wayne Earl founder of the charity, This Star Won’t Go Out, which helps provide funds to families with children who have cancer, spoke with deep passion and emotion during the Interior session. Author of the biography of his daughter, Esther Grace, who succumbed to cancer in 2010, he talked of Esther’s life and traced her friendship with her favorite author, young adult fiction writer John Green. This friendship inspired Green most notably in his writing of the world-renowned novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” which he dedicated to Esther. “Remember to read,” Esther advised others, an idea passed along by her father.

Sonia Rhodes, executive producer, said of the entire event, which spotlighted over 25 inspirational speakers, “We do this because we understand the concept of big ideas and how they can transform these kids lives. They are ready and eager and willing. What is remarkable is how the community of San Diego has come together to make this happen. They understand that this is our chance to be inspiring and engaging with the architects of all our futures.”

Emily Laliotis, a CCA junior who was one of a selected 45 students who collaborated in the planning and execution of the event, aided by a few teachers, parents and business professionals, said that she gained life and business experience in helping organize this event. “TEDx was something that I could do that went beyond myself that could make a difference, that could move people.”

Drumming, dance, digital technology and live music rounded out the day’s events and for all those who attended the message was clear: “Your ideas are worth sharing, you are architects of the future.”

TED, an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design, is a worldwide annual conference that brings together achievers in a various fields who share ideas worth spreading. TEDxYouth@San Diego mirrors that vision with a mission to inspire and be a catalyst for change. Sponsors at the CCA event included DPR Construction, JIMBO”S Naturally, Hilton Garden Inn, ebayInc., MakerPlace, Nika, dpiDirect, barnana, Specialty Produce and more. To see a video of the day’s event log onto https://new.livestream.com/tedx/TEDxYouthSanDiego