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TEDxDU Active attendees were a part of the action

TEDxDU Active attendees watch DU professor Richard Voyles speak May 13 on a live feed in the Driscoll Ballroom. Photo: Justin Edmonds

TEDxDU Active put the “party” in “watch party.”

Attendees of TEDxDU Active — an off-site gathering for people to watch a live feed of the sold-out TEDxDU event that took place May 13 in DU’s Newman Center — may have been in a different room from the main event, but they were no less engaged, enthusiastic and energetic.

As attendees entered the Driscoll Ballroom, they found rows of free food and beverages from sponsors, including Oogave sodas, Chipotle burritos, Green Fine Salad Co. wraps, Love Grown Foods granola and popchips. Reactions such as “This is awesome!” and “This stuff is all free? It’s like Christmas in here!” could be heard among the crowd’s pre-event chatter and laughter.

Other information tables hosted several companies whose missions revolve around the TEDxDU theme of “Radical Collaboration.” Companies included Africn Apparel, which makes shirts from African cotton and directs the proceeds back to Africa, and Global CaféNation, a coffee company started by DU students that sells fair-wage java.

The tables at TEDxDU Active were covered with black and white paper, crayons, markers, Play-Doh and stencils. The idea was to encourage attendees to escape the confines of their daily lives to doodle and play.

“This is like a flashback to first grade — you get to draw on the tables and play with Play-Doh,” said Lauren McVey, a DU sophomore and first-time TEDxDU Active attendee. “I like it!”

Standup comedian and TEDxDU Active emcee Rob Gleeson (BSBA ’10) hopped on stage to introduce himself and asked attendees to participate in a greeting that would be filmed, then shown to the audience at the Newman Center — essentially to brag about how the watch party was more fun than the live event.

“This isn’t really a request,” he joked. “You’re kind of obligated to participate because there’s free food.”

He instructed everyone in the room to cheer and clap when he started speaking to the camera.

“Everyone go nuts,” he said. “Like Obama just walked in or we just killed Bin Laden.”

Gleeson addressed the greeting to TEDxDU’s emcee, Hilary Blair: “Hi Hilary, we’re live over here at TEDxDU Active at the Driscoll Ballroom.”

Someone then tossed him a container of Play-Doh followed by a box of crayons, which he caught and showed to the camera.

“We can draw on the tables!” he exclaimed. “You can’t do that over there at Newman, right? At least not without getting kicked out. You know what else we can do over here? Get up and go to the bathroom whenever we want! We’re having a great time.”

A video then explained that doodling helps people retain more information, especially in meetings and presentations, because it engages all three learning pathways — hearing, seeing and feeling.

Then TEDxDU Active attendees began watching the live feed of the Newman Center event, which featured speakers, musicians, TED videos and video updates from former TEDxDU speakers.

Speaker Richard Voyles, a DU professor, showed a video of a headless chicken running around to illustrate a point he was making about the central nervous system. Some in the crowd laughed uncomfortably at the image.

Others took notes when the “Interfaith Amigos” —  a group that includes a rabbi, a Methodist pastor and an imam — spoke about how interfaith dialogue can lead to collaboration and how laughter gives people hope and how happiness can eclipse evil.

Temple Grandin spoke about the sensory differences in animals and humans and explained how autism affects people’s brains and learning styles. One woman in the audience whispered to another, “She was so good!”

The crowd applauded as Mick Ebeling — who invented a device that helps paraplegics communicate and create art with eye movements called an EyeWriter — ended with a call to action for collaboration.

“If not now, then when? If not us, then who?” he asked.

Attendees also were moved by speakers Tor Myhren, who spoke about the need for creativity, and Amanda Boxtel, who demonstrated a technology that allowed her to walk after 19 years in a wheelchair. Her talk brought some to tears.

“I thought it was genius to extend the event here to Driscoll once it sold out in the Newman Center,” said Dragos Visan (MBA ’09), web services manager at DU Athletics and Recreation. “It’s better to have a collaborative environment where everyone is watching this live stream together rather than watching it alone on a computer screen.”

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