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DU community turns out for TED simulcast

“You should be nice to nerds. In fact, if you don’t already have a nerd in your life, you should get one.”

With those words, Regina Dugan kicked off day three of the TED2012 conference in Long Beach, Calif., on Wednesday. The full day’s lineup of speakers was simulcast to DU by the independently organized TEDxDU.

At TED conferences, leading scientists, entrepreneurs and artists present their ideas in 18 minutes or less. At the core of the nonprofit is the belief that there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea.

Dugan, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), described the agency as a “magical” place where scientists and engineers (nerds) change the world by “defying the impossible and refusing to fear failure.”

“When you remove the fear of failure, impossible things become possible,” she said. “If you want to know how, ask yourself this question: ‘What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”’

“When you ask it, you begin to understand how the fear of failure constrains you,” Dugan continued. “How it keeps you from attempting great things. And life gets dull. Amazing things stop happening.”

Students who attended the TEDxDU simulcast in Ruffatto Hall were impressed.

“It’s such an incredible opportunity to learn and listen and absorb,” said Vivienne Houghton, a master’s student in library and information science from Glendale, Colo.

Adam Brown, a graduate student in higher education from Richmond, Va., said he enjoys hearing about new technology.

“I’m interested in all this stuff, but it’s not my main field of study,” he said. “So it’s great to be able to see these robots and all of these interesting things. I like crossing over, understanding other things I’m not familiar with.”

The power of nerds was further demonstrated Thursday by speakers such as Professor Vijay Kumar, of the University of Pennsylvania, who held a palm-sized robot that can fly into collapsed buildings to assess damage or be used by search-and-rescue parties. The robot avoids obstacles such as furniture and people.

“The robot can figure out where to go on its own,” he said, showing a video of a phalanx of robots flying through a window and expertly navigating obstacles and one another.

Other TED2012 speakers included crowdsourcing advocate Lior Zoref, musician and comedian Reggie Watts and social entrepreneur Reid Hoffman.

“The event was well-attended with more than 125 participants,’’ said Christa Bruning, TEDxDU committee member. “The TED speakers were captivating with talks about robots, secrets and even a live beatbox music performance. This was a great opportunity to take part in a national TED conference.”








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