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TEDActive Sparks Student Brainstorming

TEDActive Sparks Student Brainstorming

Eliot Bassett-Cann BArch 13 didn’t spend last Saturday night carousing, catching up on long overdue shut-eye or even immersed in studio work.

Eliot Bassett-Cann BArch 13 didn’t spend last Saturday night carousing, catching up on long overdue shut-eye or even immersed in studio work. Instead, the fifth-year Architecture student was burning the midnight oil with three of her peers from Industrial Design, making a mad dash to work out the kinks in an inventive website in progress. As the clock neared midnight, it was apparent that the build-out process would be a bit more complicated than planned.

“I’ve never built a website before. So, there's been a lot of hashing out and a lot of cursing,” Bassett-Cann admits with a smile.

But the students had good reason to fight their fatigue: their work is being presented this week at TEDActive 2013, an annual conference that takes place simultaneously with the renowned TED Conference, which is now underway in Long Beach, CA. TEDActive participants are now convening in Palm Springs, where Carly Ayres 13 ID, RISD’s TED Intern, is presenting on behalf of fellow students.

This year RISD was among seven colleges and universities invited to participate in a new endeavor known as TEDActive Takeover, a way for college students to brainstorm about and weigh in on the same themes and challenges TED conference attendees are addressing in Long Beach. Students involved with TEDActive are challenged to consider timely topics – like the future of mobile technology or the impact of social philanthropy – and then share their ideas at the TEDActive gathering, with a live stream going to the TED Conference in Long Beach. RISD has also been hosting a live stream of the conference all week on the second floor of 204 Westminster, a new student incubator space downtown.

“I hope our relationship with TEDActive reinforces the notion that there’s a force among artists and designers,” says Bassett-Cann. “We’re experts at creative problem solving. That’s what we do here at RISD. We have a deep commitment to finding solutions.”

Involved with the initiative from the start, Ayres recruited a band of highly motivated student volunteers who worked at breakneck speed to complete their projects in time for her presentation in California. “We only had about three weeks to get everything hammered out, so everyone gave it their all,” she says. “It lit a fire on campus.”

After a string of nights fueled by caffeine and gummy candy, Bassett-Cann, Gracie Canaan 13 ID, Nic Der MID 15 and Denise Thornberry 14 ID successfully launched Local Link, a sophisticated online hub that connects its users to community resources by engaging them through a sleek platform. “I hope this website inspires a collective exchange of ideas,” she says. “It’s a user-friendly way for organizations to share resources that can benefit a larger group. I haven’t seen anything quite like it.”

In the same short window of time, Alec Babala 14 ID, Amrit Mazumder 15 GD, Kyle DeHovitz 13 ID and Sam Jau 14 GD created a visual presentation predicting that the ubiquity of mobile devices will eventually cease. Kaitlyn Shoeck 13 ID, Emily Albert 13 GD, Rachael Rendely 13 ID and Isaac Blankensmith 13 ID devised IdeaBoard, a giant interactive screen that allows multiple users to collaborate from remote locations. Daniel Giuditta 14 GD, Tommy Park 14 ID, Michelle Wainer 14 GD, Elizabeth Goodspeed 15 GD and Elio Icaza 15 ID propose an application system for organizing technological data users generate on techie devices each day. And a group lead by Maeve Jopson 13 ID, Sarah Pease 13 FD, Emma Beede 13 IN, Ryan Mather 15 ID, Ayodhya Ouditt 13 ID and Alice Glasser 13 PT developed an info-graphic that explains the social value of AS220, an art-based nonprofit in Providence that often works with troubled youth.

“Many of the students involved with the program have spent much of their childhood in prison and have little interest in school,” explains Jopson. “But after completing the AS220 program, they go on to pursue careers that they feel passionate about. And that type of model is something worth sharing with the world.”

TED and TEDActive participants should expect to see ingenious ideas from team RISD, promises Greg Victory, director of the Career Center. “Because our students are taught to think critically, they thrive in environments that force them to think outside-the-box,” he says. “Our students are made for this kind of challenge.” –Abigail Crocker