UW celebrated its 6th annual TEDxUW Event in the Humanities Theatre Oct. 28.

The widely known talk series was given a University of Waterloo twist by making this year’s theme “defying conventions.”

The theme was chosen by the team behind the event along with co-chairs Melissa Ai Lee and Taruna Kaur-Singh at the helm, challenging attendees to think beyond the norms. Lee explains their choice in theme by explaining that “today’s political climate is really divided. When two opposing things are coming together, you might be confronted with things that make you uncomfortable or things that you don’t really understand. However, where the growth and the excitement happens is when you are willing to understand.”

It was a momentous year for TedxUW as the University of Waterloo TEDTalk team had reached their goal of growing the audience size from 100 to 700 attendees, which included Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworski and Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger. 

Lee explained that the primary difficulty in planning for an event that was to be on a larger scale than ever before, lay in envisioning what 700 individuals would look like.

But with a larger audience, the team decided to utilize the event to showcase the growth of the university by highlighting Waterloop and university a cappella groups, including the Water Boys and the AcaBellas.

This year’s TEDxUW team made sure to cover all bases with a wide variety of topics. 

The talks, steeped in the concept of breaking norms and thought-provoking issues, included discussions on how Bitcoin can actually enhance financial online security to the ethics of virtual reality becoming a facet of the entertainment industry.

They explored the “Curious intersection of mapping and art,” encouraging an “educational reform,” “battling blindness,” and “Bridging law enforcement and mental health”.

Another notable presentation was on “Taking environmental messaging to the next level” by Jennifer Lynes, the University of Waterloo’s own current assistant professor and director of the Environment and Business program.

In talking with Truman Tang, a TEDxUW speaker and marketing consultant for Google, he expressed several crucial points on making a decision in a world based on copious ratings and reviews in his talk, “The dangers of social validation.”

“The theme of defying conventions fits right in,” Tang said. “Never settle for the norm and always ask the question: ‘how can we break new ground?’”

Beyond a stage for speakers to present their ideas and opinions, the event held in Hagey Hall also allowed attendees and speakers alike to network and connect with one another.

Lee also offered some advice on how to defy conventions in everyday life: “Hearing these people talk about their innovative ideas sometimes makes people think the ordinary person can’t do the same. I don’t think that should ever be the case.

“You can make change in the smallest ways that make the biggest impact on other people.”