Youth TED Conferences

TEDYouth Session 1: Just like school … not!

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Session number 1 of TEDYouth just wrapped, and here is a recap of all 13 speakers. There’s still time to tune in for session 2, starting at 4pm EST! Head to the free livestream to watch >>

  • Rick Smolan, photographer and data evangelist
    Rick Smolan’s larger-than-life photographs capture deeper meaning in everyday moments. (Watch his TED Talk.) Right now, he’s exploring how Big Data is reshaping our lives. Everything we do generates data — who we call, what we buy, what we tweet. In his talk, Smolan gives a brief tour of the ways this vast data allows us to get new views of our world — from a crowdsourcing app that allows for better earthquake prediction, to stunning imagery of pizza delivery in New York City on a Friday night, to Smolan’s own Data Detectives project which gives a way for teens to compare themselves to others around the world.
  • Jer Thorp, data artist
    A data artist in residence at The New York Times, Jer Thorp takes big data and makes it understandable in beautiful visualizations. (Watch his TED Talk.) He’s created a visualization of people saying “Good morning” on Twitter, and of others tweeting “just landed” as they travel. In this talk, he introduces us to Cascade, The New York Times‘ initiative to visually chart the way people talk about their articles. “We are data-making machines,” said Thorp. “Big data can solve big problems.”
  • Sofia Degtyar, student
    The founder of, this Brooklyn Tech student shared several Russian tongue-twisters and also beat-boxed in her native language.
  • Kelly and Michael, interpreters
    Meet the pair who are translating the TEDYouth livestream in Spanish and Arabic. For fun, Rives had them spot-translate “Call Me, Maybe” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
  • Ayanna Howard, roboticist
    How can we have robots on Mars and in war zones, but not yet have robots in our homes? The answer: because they aren’t smart enough yet. In this talk, Howard explains that she was surprised to find that her work involved learning about child development and watching monkeys — all in service of making robots that can mirror motions, learn muscle memory and, most importantly, interact with humans. Making a special appearance in her talk: Pleo, the robot dinosaur, who has her own TED Talk.
  • Katherine Kuchenbecker, mechanical engineer
    Katherine Kuchenbecker studies haptics, the technology of touch. Her work answers the question: How can the human ability to understand the world through touch and sensation be translated into virtual objects? In this talk, she can describe tools that help dentists learn which teeth need work based on their feel, and video games that involve the sense of touch and feel.
  • Tom Chi, technologist
    Tom Chi runs Google X, which he calls the “department of science fiction” of the Internet giant. In this talk, he describes Google Glass, a head-mounted display — sort of like a pair of glasses — that can overlay digital experiences while a person interacts in the real world. While this technology sounds highly complex, he shares that making the first prototype took just a single day and that the hardest challenge was making them light and wearable.

  • William Gurstelle, DIY expert
    William Gurstelle lives dangerously — he has built potato cannons, projectile shooters, fire tornados, flame throwers and trebuchets. “There has never been a time as good to make things as right now,” he says in this talk. “But not everything you make has to be dangerous to be cool.” In this talk, he shows the audience how to make a functioning audio speaker out of a yogurt cup, sandpaper, notebook paper, magnets and hot glue. And he also plays classical music out of a potato chip.
  • Young Guru, music producer
    Young Guru has worked with Jay-Z on 10 albums, not to mention other well-known artists. On the TEDYouth stage, Young Guru turned his eye to piracy. “What does piracy have to do with hip hop music?” he asks. “Hip hop is based off using other people’s music to make new music.” In this talk, he makes a case that what’s now considered piracy is actually the pushing forward of culture. He says: “All pirates are doing is remixing something else, so let’s not attack the pirate — let’s figure out how to make a better remix.”
  • Anna Post, etiquette expert
    The great-granddaughter of Emily Post, Anna Post explores how etiquette applies to modern phenomena like texting, dating and Facebooking. In this talk, she addresses an issue important for those heading into college and the job market  — interviewing. Her six rules: 1) Prepare more than you think you need to do and prepare outloud. 2) Dress up a notch. 3) Be on time and do a dry run of the commute. 4) Nail the handshake. 5) Put away the cell phone. 6) And send a handwritten thank-you note in addition to an email thank-you.
  • Connie Hale, writer
    In this talk, Connie Hale teaches an easy way anyone can jazz up their sentences: Use better verbs. She describes two types of verbs — static verbs, which she calls “wimp verbs,”  like “seems” and “becomes,” and dynamic verbs, the ones which “pull you by the collar.” She demonstrates the difference by having audience members act out different verbs.
  • Amy Cuddy, body language expert
    High school is full of hurt, says Amy Cuddy, and she knows that the advice most parents give isn’t helpful: “Don’t worry so much about what people think.” (Watch her TED Talk.) Cuddy, a mom of a 10-year-old, shares studies which show that even adults feel pain from rejection. So how can people feel more powerful and able to weather rejection? Power posing. Just two minutes of posing with your arms up and out can bring on true internal change.
  • Carl Zimmer, science writer
    Carl Zimmer is a parasite lover, and his absolute favorite is the jewel wasp — which lives inside a cockroach. In this talk — with imagery not for the meek — Zimmer shares how these wasps turn roaches into zombies so that they become willing hosts.

Stay tuned for session 2.

Photos: top, Ryan Lash, and center, Mike Femia