TEDxUF Encourages Curiosity in 18 Minutes

Since 1984, esteemed figures in politics, culture and science have gathered to speak in a series of conferences known as Technology Entertainment and Design. Dubbed “TED Talks,” these events have built an enormous following and have attracted the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, author Malcolm Gladwell and President Bill Clinton.

For the third year, the TED Club at the University of Florida brings TEDxUF, an independent TED event, to Alachua County on Feb. 11.

“TEDxUF aims to raise demand for more creative events on campus and expose people to new ideas,” says UF senior and event curator Ben Erez. According to Erez, the event continues to grow each year—ballooning from an audience of 70 in 2010 to more than 400 in 2011.

To maintain a sense of exclusivity, the event boasts an invite-only policy, but the public is free to apply for an invitation on the event’s website, tedxuf.com. The application process opened in December, and at the time of publication, the event had already gathered 800 applicants. To accommodate such a large group, the conference will be held at the Phillips Center for Performing Arts, starting at 11am.

TEDxUF will play host to ten speakers who, in the precedence set by formal TED events, are given 18 minutes to address their audience. Presenters will include Eric Ford, an associate professor of astronomy at UF conducting research with NASA’s Kepler Mission; Jacob Atem, a UF PhD student who launched a non-profit organization to develop healthcare in South Sudan; and Michael Jones, founder of the Open Equal Free program, which aims to provide free educational content to developing countries.

The speakers are unified under the theme “Celebrating Curiosity,” which Erez says encompasses the ways in which the thirst for knowledge played a role in the accomplishments of TEDxUF’s speakers.

Erez says he enjoys working with these individuals. “They are condensing stories of their most passionate endeavors into 18 minutes or less,” he says. “There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the reflective process of differentiating between the substantive and the unimportant.”

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