Annual TEDx conference to be held at Paly

Palo Alto High School will be hosting its third annual TEDx program ­— an independent offshoot of the official Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talks — on Saturday, March 26 in the Haymarket Theater. The conference will include a variety of speakers, including Paly students, staff and community members, who will be discussing a wide range of topics. The program is being coordinated by Paly’s TEDx club. For the first time since its creation, the event will take place on the weekend instead of during school hours.

In previous years, teachers could sign their classes up to attend a talk, and students had the option to attend talks at their own leisure as well. This year, in order to accommodate for students with different schedules, there is an online site to sign up for free tickets; registration will be open up to one week before the event.

“The reason why [the date switched] is because a lot of teachers would often complain, saying they wanted to bring their students to see the event, but they often couldn’t because it would interfere with their class schedule,” senior and Paly TEDx curator Adele Bloch said. “So we moved it to Saturday just so that more community members could come, as well as teachers and students.”

The conference is divided into two sessions: the first from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and the second from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Students can choose to attend one or both sessions.

This year’s theme is “Think Again,” chosen because of the diverse variety of topics that fall under this category, according to Bloch. The student speakers at the conference will be freshman Nicholas Padmanabhan, sophomores Alex Dinu and Darrow Hornick, junior Claire Eberhart and senior Tiffany Liang. Adult speakers  will include Paly librarian Rachel Kellerman, entrepreneur David Landau, hair stylist Wendy Spencer, health educator Donnovan Yisrael and Google employee Alicia Chang. Additionally, the emcee will be senior William Dougall. Talks will cover everything from mental health awareness and poetry to reading and discrimination in STEM.

“It’s a great lineup,” Bloch said. “We have really interesting talks, from a person finding out her grandfather was a part of the Ku Klux Klan to a student speaker who is a classical guitar player and will talk about bring music outside of concert halls.”

The TEDx club added several new events from previous years’ conferences, including performances from two of Paly’s acapella groups, the Heartbeats and Vikapella, as well as a conversation with journalism advisor and TED speaker Esther Wojcicki.

“This year we have lot more freedom, because in previous years we were limited to a 50-minute block of time, but now we have two hours,” Bloch said. “We figured instead of showing six talks in a row, we can kind of scatter it with fun things in the middle, so we’re having performances by acapella groups and [Wojcicki], who spoke at the TED conference this year in February. We thought it would be interesting to show her TED video and then have a conversation with her about the TED conference that she went to.”

Bloch encourages students to come to the event to participate and take away valuable ideas and experiences.

“You can find so many TED videos online, but I feel like coming to the actual conference is so much different,” Bloch said. “Being around a group of people all watching the same thing, all exploring the same ideas is a really great experience that I would definitely recommend.”