TEDxFIU reimagines possible, inspires in second annual event


Photos by Constanza Gallardo.

Marisol Medina/Staff Writer

The second annual TEDxFIU was hosted this past Thursday to an audience of about 500 people who reimagined what they thought was possible.

Spectators of this year’s event cried, laughed and danced as they cheerfully applauded the speakers delivering their talks.

The second TEDxFIU featured 12 speakers – students, faculty and alumni – that delivered 11 talks ranging from topics including Aileen Marty’s talk on using chemical and biological weapons to save lives to Tudor Parfitt, also known as the “British Indiana Jones,” speaking about his search for the lost tribes of Israel.

Aneysi Fernandez energized the crowd during her musical performance with the Wadaiko Academy playing Japanese Taiko drums, and Black Violin closed the night to the beat of hip-hop and classical violin.

“I feel completely inspired,” said Mariana Cuevas, human resources manager and self-proclaimed TED-fanatic.

Cuevas said the event exceeded her expectations and changed her image of the University. She wants to be a future Panther.

[pullquote]“The event made me think outside the box and thinking that things are possible.” [/pullquote]

Nineteen-year-old Alexa Chavarry, a sophomore in psychology and the youngest speaker in the event, received a standing ovation for sharing how her personal struggles with depression and self-harm that lead to the creation of The Butterfly Project — her online blog of more than 14,000 followers who share their stories and use it as support in avoiding self-harm.

“The standing ovation is one thing, but knowing I was able to put something very taboo out there in such a positive light is very satisfactory,” said Chavarry.

Chavarry said she felt relieved after finishing her talk. She said knowing that people received her message made all her hard work preparing for the event be worthwhile.

Kelly Ibarra, sophomore communication arts major, found Maria Pia Celestino’s talk about glasses that help read to the blind inspirational.FIU Alumna, Maria Pia Celestino presented the project EyeTalker. It developed a pair of glasses that captires text and delivers audio to the visually impaired.

“She was able to find something unique to help people who can’t see, it’s something that can help people around the world; it even made me tear up,” said Ibarra.

Ibarra was surprised to see Black Violin offer classical music combined with hip-hop, and said that although she is a lover of both genres, it had never occurred to her to combine them.

“I’m a musician and I understand how hard it can be to have a unique idea, especially with a classical instrument such as the violin, but they were able to think outside the box and succeed with their idea,” said Ibarra.

Ibarra said the speakers in the event inspired her to reach for new heights in her own life as well.

“I left tonight thinking ‘what am I going to do to change the world and inspire people?’”

Deron Burkepile, assistant professor of marine science, and Michael Heithaus, director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society, spoke about the Aquarius reef base, the world’s only undersea research lab.

Burkepile delivered his part of the talk from the Herbert Wertheim Performing Arts Center and Heithaus gave his live underwater in Aquarius, as two divers goofed off through the window behind him, making the audience laugh.

“Our primary goal tonight was to make people understand how important Aquarius is to understanding coral reefs, how they’re threatened and how they can be protected,” said Burkepile.

Burkepile said that one of the best things about the event was that it offered a great variety of ideas and performances that made people think about things they had never thought about.

“When I go around the country, I see that people may not know FIU, because we’re a pretty new university, but with these events we are showing the diversity of science, arts and research that happens here and putting our name out there while spreading the FIU brand, because it’s a fantastic brand and we need to get it out there,” said Burkepile.

– marisol.medina@fiusm.com

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