Professor Alex Ferworn bringing a search dog on stage. PHOTO: SISSI WANG

TEDxRyerson does a 361 degree turn

In Business & Technology /

By Sissi Wang 

The Bram and Bluma Appel salon in Toronto Reference Library was transformed last Saturday to host the annual TEDxRyerson conference. Hundreds of Ryerson students and TED talk enthusiasts filled the room to hear this year’s big ideas from Ryerson campus.

TEDxRyerson was established in 2010 by a group of Ryerson students to spread ideas about technology, entertainment, and design from students, alumni and professors at Ryerson. It is a local initiative under the non-profit organization TED, famous for its motivational speakers.

TEDxRyerson speakers were selected based on the theme “361o,” which meant challenging routine.

Nutrition artist, Michelle Kwan, showed the crowd the value of art when applied to health education. An interactive exhibition featuring life-sized hand-knit male and female genitalia was shown by Kwan, who said it was more effective in informing the public about breast and prostate cancer than conventional brochures.

Sanism was explored in detail by Professor Jennifer Poole from the school of social work. Sanism is the hidden prejudice people hold against those with mental illnesses. Poole said sanism can be seen in classrooms and work places because people do not understand signs of mental illness and choose to use words like crazy or psycho. Poole encouraged audience to practice anti-sanism by embracing madness and elevating emotional relationships.

Professor Bala Venkatesh, known for his research in optimizing power systems, spoke about why urbanization and pollution are the biggest challenges societies face today. Megacities, like Shanghai, consume the same amount of energy as Ontario, causing congestion problems in the energy system along with pollution. Venkatesh called for Ryerson students from different disciplines to work together and develop new technologies that would change the current system’s shortfalls.

Fashion school professor Grahame Lynch is working on using art to promote awareness of people who experience life differently. He drew inspiration from his own experiences as someone who is partially sighted with double vision, and created “The Logics of Subduction,” an art exhibit that allowed people to experience what it’s like to live as a partially sighted person.

Computer science professor Alex Ferworn. Ferworn combined the use of search bots and search dogs, which were used separately to find survivors in disaster sites, by strapping a small robot equipped with a camera onto a search dog. This allowed the robot to travel through the rough terrain of the disaster area without getting stuck in cracks, get into the collapsed building, and accurately search for survivors through the use of a camera.

Other speakers included Steven Murphy, the dean of Ted Rogers School of Management, and Ayyyna Budaeva, the marketing manager of Ryerson’s newly launched Fashion Zone. They spoke about creative opportunities in business.

Students said the conference was

“Getting a fresh perspective for old problems has put a lovely twist to my day,” Ashleigh Hennesey, a second year Ryerson student tweeted.

Marijana Miric, a Ryerson grad, was impressed by Ferworn’s search bots.

“The combination of dogs and robots for rescue missions was so simple yet so innovative,” Miric said.

Interested students can audition to speak at next year’s TEDxRyerson conference next fall.

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