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TEDYouth: Best Teen Programming Idea

The best teen programming idea I saw recently was to do library video nights for the TED Youth events. TEDYouth is a TED event for high school students (Follow it on Twitter @tedyouth).

I like this because it’s inspirational, often involves kids talking to kids as well as other inspirational people, it’s pretty gender balanced and neutral … and like all TED stuff, it’s just neat.

Check out the TED blog for more:


TEDYouth was a day-long event for high school students — with live speakers, hands-on activities and great conversations. It      livestreamed FREE in English, Arabic and Spanish on Nov. 17, 1-6pm Eastern. If you missed it, check out the TEDYouth Archived Stream »

TEDYouth Session 1: Just like school … not!

TED Blog


17 November 2012

TEDYouth Session 1: Just like school … not!

Session number 1 of TEDYouth: here is a recap of all 13 speakers:

  • Rick Smolan, photographer and data evangelist Rick Smolan’s larger-than-life photographs capture deeper meaning in everyday moments. (Watch his TED Talk.) Right now, he’s exploring how Big Data is reshaping our lives. Everything we do generates data — who we call, what we buy, what we tweet. In his talk, Smolan gives a brief tour of the ways this vast data allows us to get new views of our world — from a crowdsourcing app that allows for better earthquake prediction, to stunning imagery of pizza delivery in New York City on a Friday night, to Smolan’s own Data Detectives project which gives a way for teens to compare themselves to others around the world. .
  • Jer Thorp, data artist A data artist in residence at The New York Times, Jer Thorp takes big data and makes it understandable in beautiful visualizations. (Watch his TED Talk.) He’s created a visualization of people saying “Good morning” on Twitter, and of others tweeting “just landed” as they travel. In this talk, he introduces us to Cascade, The New York Times‘ initiative to visually chart the way people talk about their articles. “We are data-making machines,” said Thorp. “Big data can solve big problems.” .
  • Sofia Degtyar, student The founder of, this Brooklyn Tech student shared several Russian tongue-twisters and also beat-boxed in her native language.
  • Kelly and Michael, interpreters Meet the pair who are translating the TEDYouth livestreamin Spanish and Arabic. For fun, Rives had them spot-translate “Call Me, Maybe” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” .
  • Ayanna Howard, roboticist How can we have robots on Mars and in war zones, but not yet have robots in our homes? The answer: because they aren’t smart enough yet. In this talk, Howard explains that she was surprised to find that her work involved learning about child development and watching monkeys — all in service of making robots that can mirror motions, learn muscle memory and, most importantly, interact with humans. Making a special appearance in her talk: Pleo, the robot dinosaur, who has her own TED Talk. .
  • Katherine Kuchenbecker, mechanical engineerKatherine Kuchenbecker studies haptics, the technology of touch. Her work answers the question: How can the human ability to understand the world through touch and sensation be translated into virtual objects? In this talk, she can describe tools that help dentists learn which teeth need work based on their feel, and video games that involve the sense of touch and feel. .
  • Tom Chi, technologist Tom Chi runs Google X, which he calls the “department of science fiction” of the Internet giant. In this talk, he describes Google Glass, a head-mounted display — sort of like a pair of glasses — that can overlay digital experiences while a person interacts in the real world. While this technology sounds highly complex, he shares that making the first prototype took just a single day and that the hardest challenge was making them light and wearable.
  • William Gurstelle, DIY expert William Gurstelle lives dangerously — he has built potato cannons, projectile shooters, fire tornados, flame throwers and trebuchets. “There has never been a time as good to make things as right now,” he says in this talk. “But not everything you make has to be dangerous to be cool.” In this talk, he shows the audience how to make a functioning audio speaker out of a yogurt cup, sandpaper, notebook paper, magnets and hot glue. And he also plays classical music out of a potato chip. .
  • Young Guru, music producer Young Guru has worked with Jay-Z on 10 albums, not to mention other well-known artists. On the TEDYouth stage, Young Guru turned his eye to piracy. “What does piracy have to do with hip hop music?” he asks. “Hip hop is based off using other people’s music to make new music.” In this talk, he makes a case that what’s now considered piracy is actually the pushing forward of culture. He says: “All pirates are doing is remixing something else, so let’s not attack the pirate — let’s figure out how to make a better remix.” .
  • Anna Post, etiquette expert The great-granddaughter of Emily Post, Anna Post explores how etiquette applies to modern phenomena like texting, dating and Facebooking. In this talk, she addresses an issue important for those heading into college and the job market  – interviewing. Her six rules: 1) Prepare more than you think you need to do and prepare outloud. 2) Dress up a notch. 3) Be on time and do a dry run of the commute. 4) Nail the handshake. 5) Put away the cell phone. 6) And send a handwritten thank-you note in addition to an email thank-you. .
  • Connie Hale, writerIn this talk, Connie Hale teaches an easy way anyone can jazz up their sentences: Use better verbs. She describes two types of verbs — static verbs, which she calls “wimp verbs,”  like “seems” and “becomes,” and dynamic verbs, the ones which “pull you by the collar.” She demonstrates the difference by having audience members act out different verbs. .
  • Amy Cuddy, body language expert High school is full of hurt, says Amy Cuddy, and she knows that the advice most parents give isn’t helpful: “Don’t worry so much about what people think.” (Watch her TED Talk.) Cuddy, a mom of a 10-year-old, shares studies which show that even adults feel pain from rejection. So how can people feel more powerful and able to weather rejection? Power posing. Just two minutes of posing with your arms up and out can bring on true internal change. .
  • Carl Zimmer, science writer Carl Zimmer is a parasite lover, and his absolute favorite is the jewel wasp — which lives inside a cockroach. In this talk — with imagery not for the meek — Zimmer shares how these wasps turn roaches into zombies so that they become willing hosts.”

TEDYouth Session 2: Space, math, chess and heart tissue

TEDYouth session two:  You can read about each of the 12 speakers below:

  • Olivier Guyon, Optical Physicist and Astronomer Olivier designs powerful telescopes that search for exoplanets — earth-like planets that exist outside of our solar system. The problem with search for them, he says, is that the numbers are astronomical. “If you count all the stars in our galaxy it would take more than a thousand years.” Fortunately, he and others are designing more powerful telescopes to search for such planets. For more see this TED-Ed lesson on how to find habitable planets..
  • Bobak Ferdowsi, Flight Director for the Mars Curiosity Rover mission Not only did Bobak help land the Curiosity Rover on Mars, he became an Internet meme for his mohawk haircut. He reviews the extraordinary technology and techniques they used to land an SUV sized rover — overcoming such obstacles as the chance that the thrusters used on landing would blow a hole in the planet that the rover could never climb out of. (Watch NASA’s video on the “7 minutes of terror,”the time it took the rover to land.) .
  • Lily He, one of the students in the audience, is also a master speed stacker. She shows off her cup-stacking skills, and then explains how it’s done. .
  • Gaurav Tekriwal, Vedic Mathematician Gauray teaches Vedic Mathematics, a super fast and fun way of solving large equations. He starts with a technique for multiplying by 11, eliciting wows over the simplicity. He moves on to something, harder: 98 x 97 = 9,506 almost instantly. A bit more advanced: leading the audience in a way to square large numbers in less than five seconds. “Woud you like maths to be dull and boring, or fun and interesting? The choice is yours.” (You can see him in action at TED@Bangalore as part of TED’s Talent Search.). .
  • Dee Breger, Photomicrographer Dee takes photographs that provide an intimate glimpse of the surprising microscopic structures of both familiar objects and exotic research samples. The audience is treated to an extraordinary slide-show of images, from a human hair to heart muscle to a lung with pneumonia. A photo of asbestos shows a dazzling arrangement of long, fibrous minerals — not good to breath. You can see those and more at her website. .
  • Clifford Johnson, Physicist Clifford is a theoretical physicist attempting to find the answers to questions like: Why are we here? Where did we and the world come from? And what is the world made of? Questions that get to how the universe works on the most fundamental level. Just like you can find out how a phone works by taking it apart, and finding smaller electronic components, physicists take matter apart, finding the smaller and smaller particles that make up the stuff around us. We’ve only scratched the surface though, and Clifford and other physicists are working on many open questions: There are patterns to particles, where do they come from? We’ve found there is a huge amount of dark matter — what is it? How does gravity work at the smallest level?
  • Kelly Benoit-Bird, Marine Biologist Kelly uses sophisticated sound technology to explore how animals in the ocean find their food while trying to avoid being someone else’s dinner. It turns out that there is very little food in the ocean — in the 400 seat TEDYouth auditorium there would be the equivalent of one tub of movie popcorn. But it’s even more complicated than that — animals do best when food is clumped, so regions with large amounts of food for seals, say, might not support large populations if the food is spread out instead of clumping. Using advanced sonar, she’s found remarkable patterns in the way animals find their food. (Watch also: This TED-Ed lesson on the secret life of plankton.) .
  • Deborah Blum, Science writer Deborah is a Pulitzer-winning science writer and professor who’s fascinated by the intersection of science and society. We now live in a “CSI age,” where police departments work with scientists to solve crimes. But she wants to know, “What was it like before scientitsts knew how to tease a poison out of a corpse?” In the early 20th century poisoners could operate with impunity in the city of New York. It wasn’t until 1930 that someone figured out how to tell the time of death — a task that took 6,000 brains from the morgue. She tells the story of how blood chemistry solved a murder in New York’s Lower East Side. From that and more, science was regarded as a powerful way to solve crimes. (Her book The Poisoner’s Handbook tells the tales of the perfect early-20th-century crime.) .
  • Maurice Ashley, Chess Grandmaster Maurice is an International Grandmaster of Chess — in fact, in 1999, he was the first African-American to win that title. There is a myth that grandmasters can see 15 moves ahead. The truth is that in the first four moves there are 318,000,000 ways to play. So he and other grandmasters use a variety of techniques to look ahead. One is called “Retrograde Analysis,” a way of looking at what had happened before to figure out what will happen in the future. For example, a good way to proofread is to read an essay backward, to avoid the fact that our brain will fill in errors when we know what to expect. He uses this techniques in many other areas to solve problems, with great effect. Finally, is youth wasted on the young? Well, “If you can see the endgame, your youth will not be wasted on you.” .
  • David Fasanya and Gabriel Barralaga, Slam Poets David and Gabriel are members of the 2012 Urban Word Slam Team. Their work has been seen in various shows and performances throughout New York City. Here at TEDYouth, they perform their award winning piece, “Beach Bodies,” a piece about insecurities. Watch the full piece here..
  • Mark Changizi, Cognitive Scientist Mark aims to grasp the foundations underlying why we think, feel and see as we do. He has written extensively on why we see in color, have forward-facing eyes, and get fooled by illusions. At TEDYouth he shows us how a simple illusionworks. Why do comic book artists include lines to indicate motion? “All the objects flow outward activiating mini neurons all in a row.” The brain is also slow. By the time you see something in motion, it’s moved. The brain is compensating for both of these, leading to the illusion. .
  • Nina Tandon, Tissue Engineer Nina is a TED Fellow who studies ways to use electrical signals to grow artificial hearts and bones. (Watch her TED Talk.) She tells us about Luigi Galvani, who took two frog legs, attached them to an antenna, and went on a roof in a thunderstorm — and they moved. With that, he discovered that our bodies use electricity. A couple centuries later we’ve learned how to use these electrical signals to do all kinds of things, such as listening in on our brains or hearts. Nina usesb that to study hearts as they grow, and then to grow her own. Really, she grew a part of a heart in her lab!”

The above sessions were for TEDYouth 2012. You can see TEDYouth 2011 here:

“TEDYouth [2011], our first-ever TED event for young people, was held on Saturday, November 19th, 2011 at the Times Center in Manhattan. TEDYouth coincided with more than 100 self-organized TEDxYouthDay events happening worldwide over a 48-hour period. The theme for the day was “Play, Learn, Build, and Share”. Attendance was open, free of charge, to 300 youth from 6-12th grades within the New York area. Each of the 20 passionate speakers inspire creativity, share mind-shifting stories, and engage their physical and virtual audience in ways that every student deserves.

TEDYouth 2011 speakers

  • Adam Savage is a maker of things, building everything from spaceships to buddhas, from puppets to rifles, from sculptures to toys. He’s best known for his role as co-host of the TV show MythBusters on the Discovery channel. (Watch his TEDTalk)
  • Robert Full studies cockroach legs and gecko feet. His research is helping build the perfect “distributed foot” for tomorrow’s robots, based on evolution’s ancient engineering. (Watch his TEDTalks)
  • David Gallo is a pioneer in ocean exploration and an enthusiastic ambassador between the sea and those of us on dry land. (Watch his TEDTalks)
  • Brad Meltzer is a best selling author whose writing focuses on political thrillers. Most recently, he is the co-host of the History Channel’s Decoded.
  • Déborah Berebichez, also known as “The Science Babe,” studies the science behind everyday life, like the physics behind wearing high heels. (Watch her talk from TEDxEast)
  • Lemon Andersen is a TONY award-winning performer and spoken word artist who is also the subject of a newly-released documentary film about his life called Lemon.
  • Leah Buechleyis an MIT designer who mixes high and low tech to create smart and playful results.
  • Juan D. Martinezis a National Geographic Explorer who dedicates his energy to grassroots campaigns from health care and housing discrimination, to creating garden space where he grew up in South Central L.A.
  • Greg Gagehas combined invertebrate preparations with off-the-shelf electronics, to create a kit that could provide insight into the inner workings of the body, specifically the brain. He is a TED2012 Fellow.
  • Arianne Cohen is the author of The Tall Book , where she shares the pros and cons of living life as a 6’3 woman.
  • Steve Stouteis one of the most influential voices in pop culture. His work examines how hip-hop has transformed a new generation, conquered the global marketplace, and rewritten the rules of the new economy.
  • Jason Munshi-Southis a researcher at Baruch College who studies the behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary impacts of humans on the inhabitants of New York City parks.
  • Daniela Schilleris an assistant professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying emotional control.
  • Chris Anderson is the curator of the TED Conference. (Watch his TEDTalks)
  • Garth Sundemis a mathematician who uses mathematics to answer everyday questions, such as whether to goof or study.
  • Ish Islam, Justin Long-Moton and Carvens Lissaint come from New York City’s Urban Word program, and are three of its finest young poets.
  • Kevin Allocca is the trends manager of YouTube, where he tracks popular video phenomena.”

Try it.  I think it can replace at least one video or gaming night and there’s enough here for a few nights and each video isn’t too long.  I believe that you’ll need to repeat the programs just from the word-of-mouth.  If you’ve got kids who like their parents, they’ll like it too!




Posted on: November 19, 2012, 7:05 am Category: Uncategorized

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