TEDx seeks to build community

Annual TEDx talks center around dissonance and the need for harmony

By Molly Hulligan | Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Camryn Yacks. One of the speakers for this year’s TEDx talks was Dr. Thomas Lebesmuehlbacher, an economics professor at Xavier. His talk focused on the relationships between pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals.

The international lecture series known as TEDx Talks was brought to Xavier last Saturday. TEDxXavierUniversity’s goal was to provide innovative solutions to complex and relevant problems in our world today.

Two speakers and a group of three presented their take on this year’s theme of dissonance as a way of promoting unity within the Xavier community and beyond, each in a matter of 15 minutes.

Dissonance refers to a lack of harmony or incompatibility between thought and action. Junior TEDxXavierUniversity co-President Camryn Yacks offered insight into the thought process behind this theme.

“(Life) is so polarized nowadays,” she said. “You feel like you’re almost crossing a line. You don’t want to talk a lot about differences. So we really wanted that to be the focus of the event.”

Dissonance has not only proven to be a relevant topic of discussion in today’s society but also right here in the Xavier community.

“We throw around words that we’re thinking of or (notable) topics in pop culture,” Yacks said, “We actually went through our social media and our text messages — we picked out words that were common themes, went through our search histories.”

“Xavier is all about bringing meaningful conversation to campus, and I think that’s what our event does… Kind of our unofficial motto is to ‘intrigue, inspire and challenge people.”

Yacks and her team have been working hard for the success of this event since April.

“We had about 50 speaker applications from the Xavier community and then from Canada, across the coast — which was really exciting,” Yacks said. “Over the summer we sifted through applications, requested videos…  Ultimately, when we came back in the fall, we had four speakers picked out. Unfortunately, one dropped out, which made it three.”

Although all three speakers connected back to the broader theme of dissonance, a wide range of ideas and experiments were still introduced by these innovative individuals.

The first speaker, Dr. Thomas Lebesmuehlbacher, assistant professor in the Department of Economics at Xavier, analyzed the incentivizing relationships between pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals.

Rhea Elcock, a Xavier alumnus, began her talk by posing the question, “Can math be a tool to solve the world’s biggest problems?” Elcock, who majored in mathematics, connected math and dissonance with “equations for merging our minds to become one.”

The third set of speakers was a trio combating pollution and plastic production in our world today. Juniors Michael Arens, David Constantine and Danny Powers became a team around January of last year, developing their company called Clean Earth Rovers. The trio’s main objective is to fight plastic pollution on a large scale with their innovative machine, the Ocean Rover Cleaning Apparatus (O.R.C.A.).

Entrepreneurial studies major Constantine shared insight into the past, present and future of Clean Earth Rovers.

“The reason we became a team was because we entered the Big East Pitch Competition here at Xavier. So Michael (Arens), who’s actually the original creator of (O.R.C.A.), he asked us to be a part of it,” Constantine said.

“We actually ended up making it to the finals of the Big East Pitch Competition. (We) didn’t end up winning the whole thing, but we still went forward with our idea.”

According to Constantine, the team hopes to continue moving forward with their work through graduation and beyond.

“We’ve applied to grants, we’ve talked to many companies about partnering with them and we’ve actually had some leads with that,” Constantine said. He believes the TEDx talk will be useful in backing them up in future business inquiries.

For more information on Lebesmuehlbacher’s, Elcock’s and Clean Earth Rovers’ talks, visit @TEDxXavierU on Twitter and TEDxXavierUniversity on Facebook. The talks will be available on Xavier’s YouTube channel within the next month.