Amherst Students Compete for Opportunity to Speak at TEDx Event
Issue   |   Wed, 10/09/2013 - 02:19
Photo Courtesy of Office of Public Affairs
One of five speaker candidates, Yilin Andre Wang ’14 presents his ideas on the science and public perception of lie detection.

Come Nov. 10, one lucky student will stand on stage with seven to eight of the Amherst community’s most disruptive innovators — alumni, faculty and staff — and give a TEDx talk on a topic of their choice in front of an audience of 350 people. Students competed for the coveted spot this Sunday in front of the TEDxAmherstCollege team and a panel of judges.
Five speaker candidates and two MC candidates showed up to display their verbal talent, although organizer John He ’16 stated that a few more students had initially applied.

“We were surprised by the range of innovative ideas that all the applicants had, though it was disappointing that a few could not make it to the contest because of other commitments,” He said.

Elson Browne-Low ’15, an international student from Guyana who is passionate about nonprofit work, was first to present on his idea to “facilitate the realization of young people’s socially-minded ideas through a radical redefinition of the ‘consultant.’” The goal was to rethink the world of socially-minded organizations to the audience, envisioning a new type of organization that would be defined by the nature of its staff and its goal of efficiency rather than by any particular field of focus.

Feynman Liang ’14, who has taken over fifty online courses, gave his talk on Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) providers and how they are shaping the classrooms of the future. As someone who is well-known within the MOOC community, Liang was able to give an insider account regarding the current state of MOOCs, and described the kind of innovation that he expected to occur as a result of using technology not only to increase accessibility, but, student productivity.
Following Liang was Richard Altieri ’15, who was also competing for an MC position. He gave his talk on how exposure to different cultures can help young people find and reconsider perspectives, allowing them to develop a way of thinking that can spark innovative ideas and progress.

“I want to argue that innovation can mean much more than a ‘Eureka’ moment or the production of new technology: it can change the way we conceptualize the world around us,” Altieri said.
Yilin Andre Wang ’14 was next with a talk that aimed to challenge the public’s imagination of lies and lie detection. As a psychology major, he planned to draw on many studies to explain why the average person was accurate in lie detection only slightly above chance, and how lying and lie detection was far more complex and difficult than popular media made people believe.

The youngest speaker candidate, Siyu Feng ’17E, followed Wang’s talk on lie detection with a speech about how her parents’ views on traditional Chinese medicine differed from Western ideas towards medicine. She brought a large model of an ear that her parents had given her before she left for college, explaining that different parts of the ear corresponded with different parts of the body.

Finally, Eric Grein ’15 presented for Blaine Werner ’15, who was unable to make the event due to other obligations. Grein read Werner’s two talk proposals, one on behavioral finance and the other on pop music or Southern hip hop. All of the talks were introduced by the MC candidates, Altieri and Laurence Pevsner ’14.

The judges were CCE director Molly Mead, Dean of Students Jim Larimore, and Economics professor Prakarsh Singh, who were all given rubrics at the beginning of the event with which to score both speaker and MC candidates.

Larimore, in particular, was impressed by the quality of the speakers and the organization of the event.

“I commend the students who participated in the speaker contest last Sunday. They spoke on a variety of interesting and compelling topics, and their enthusiasm and knowledge made it a pleasure to serve as a judge,” Larimore said.

For the TEDxAmherstCollege team, comments such as these reaffirmed their decision to include a student speaker.
“We know that many Amherst students have innovative and disruptive ideas and some of them are actually making their ideas happen. TEDxAmherstCollege should provide a platform for Amherst student innovators to spread their ideas,” said Xiangyu Zhao ’14, one of the student organizers of the event.

The event was only one of the many steps leading up to their large speaker conference, however.

“We hope we can get advantage of the momentum we got from the event and get even more people involved and excited about our event in the coming weeks,” said organizer Diego Recinos ’14. He stated that the results of the competition would be announced within the next two weeks.

The actual TEDxAmherstCollege conference will be held in Kirby Theater on Nov. 10, and host eight to nine speakers in a range of diverse fields.