Making Waves: Going against the tide & transforming ideas into action

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by Audrey Ho and Faith Rahman

“Making Waves” is the theme for the 2018 TEDxUW event (“x” meaning an independently organized TED event). Started approximately eight years ago, 2018 marks the seventh annual TEDxUW event, a conference run entirely by University of Waterloo students. The day-long event comprises of breakfast, lunch, three speaker sessions, several performances, and breaks filled with networking activities. With over 400 attendees, 25 organization executives, 25 ambassadors, and various clubs and sponsors, TEDxUW attracts a great amount of attention from the local Kitchener-Waterloo community.

Participants are primarily University of Waterloo students but also include politicians, alumni, and even select high school students as well. Speakers typically come from the surrounding area and the GTA, but some also come from across Canada. Speakers are self-nominated or nominated by others, and the selection process differs from year to year based on which topics and speakers fit the theme best.

Daniel Kwon, one of the co-chairs for TEDxUW 2018, believes that ultimately it’s the attendees that differentiates TEDxUW from other TEDx conferences.

“Waterloo has a really rich tech ecosystem. The Waterloo community and University of Waterloo students are really respected [in the tech industry]. A lot of our attendees are very professional,” said Kwon.

The event features topics ranging from mental health, to technology, to nutrition, highlighting a diverse and notable group of individuals. Innovators that took it to the stage included Harleen Kaur, an ex-NASA space engineer and first female VP of Rolls-Royce, and Dillon Mendes, one of the Top 25 Environmentalists in Canada and the 18-year-old Co-Founder of PickWaste currently studying at the University of Waterloo.

The theme “making waves” was chosen for a variety of reasons. Aside from being able to directly and visually translate “making waves” for TEDxUW’s branding, “making waves” can be interpreted literally and figuratively.

“TED encourages having a broad theme,” said Kwon. “Literally, making waves can relate to changing tides or the new 5G technology coming out, whereas figuratively, it can translate to disruption and innovation.”

Last year, TEDxUW focused on different ways of thinking and thinking unconventionally. “This year, we wanted to shift from a thought-focused event to an action-focused event,” Kwon said. “It’s really interesting to talk about ideas, but if they’re not actionable, it’s harder to make use of them.

“It creates a unique atmosphere when we hold the TEDx event because everyone is motivated to go further. Their careers don’t start after university, their careers start now.”