Students Attend TEDxYouth Event

By Dia Jain, Horizon Assistant Editor

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  • Juniors Carson Wang and Vani Shah pose at the TEDxYouth photo booth.

    Photo By Risha Sur

  • Amy Stansbury speaks about the importance of being active in local governments.

    Photo By Dia Jain

  • Diego Corzo, a DACA recipient, speaks about how he overcame the hardships of being an undocumented immigrant.

    Photo By Dia Jain

  • Sara Bawany, a poet and writer, recites one of her poems about being a woman of color.

    Photo By Dia Jain

  • Aarushi Machavarapu ’19, logistics director for TEDxYouth’s Austin Chapter, introduces the following speaker.

    Photo By Dia Jain

  • All the attendees evacuate the building during a false alarm.

    Photo By Risha Sur

  • Students visit the stand for Trashbots, a company that aims to provide simple science and engineering guidance.

    Photo By Risha Sur

  • Sara Bawany speaks about her book, “(w)holehearted: A Collection of Poetry and Prose.”

    Photo By Risha Sur

  • Students gather to learn how to build a magazine for a xLab activity.

    Photo By Risha Sur

  • Amy Stansbury, an author at Austin EcoNetwork, sets up a stand to teach students about the local government.

    Photo By Risha Sur

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Students and families from around central Texas gathered at the new Austin Central Public Library to listen to local Austinites speak about their experiences at the annual [email protected] Event on Saturday, Feb. 9. TEDxYouth is an organization meant to inspire, teach, and encourage students to pursue technology, entertainment, and design. A year-long effort goes into the whole event, which is organized by a team of local high school students.

In previous years, the event was held at the Westlake Performing Arts Center. This year however, the event was held at the new library built in downtown Austin, and due to the new venue, the team had to work even harder to adjust their logistics and plan everything accordingly.

“I’m [the] Logistics Director for TED and TED is genuinely the best thing that ever happened to me. It changed the entire course of what I spent high school doing and focusing on and the team is what makes it so great,” Aarushi Machavarapu ‘19 said. “We are so collaborative and passionate and we become best friends by the end of it. We also all work together so well, it’s truly a balance that is so rare and that I haven’t found anywhere else.”

The first speaker was Zach Horvath, who recounted a story about his adventures in Europe leading him to want himself and others to “live a great story.” Horvath was followed by Rohit Srinivasan who applied three meaningful business lessons from his childhood lemonade stand to his current business, Trashbots. Trashbots creates cheap robotic kits to help students around the world have access and learn more about technology. Millennial Amy Stansbury then took the stage with a story encouraging all millennials to participate in government issues so that their voice may be heard.

Sean Gulick spoke next, talking about his research with evolution, rocks, and dinosaurs. He took the audience on an interesting journey to explain the extinction of dinosaurs due to asteroids. The audience was left speechless after the next performance by Sara Bawany. Bawany, author of (w)holehearted, recited two of her own poems which touched on her struggles through discrimination and her efforts to rise above the injustice in society. The first half of the talks closed with Lesley Ryan who encouraged her listeners to embrace the artist inside of them.

“My favorite speaker was Sara Bawany because her poems were so good and they really moved me. They were captivating and so well-written and delivered,” Akshata Badrayani ‘21 said.

After the first half of talks, the audience separated into their activities. These activities ranged from solving puzzles in an escape room simulation, to learning about the Austin Central Public Library through a scavenger hunt. Some activities such as Trashbots, Empowering Artistry, and Functional Democracy were led by the speakers themselves. During this time, everyone was able to take a small break, enjoy the activities, and interact with some of the speakers.

The final section of TEDxYouth was comprised of the remaining speakers and performances. Noah in the Open, a local band, kicked off the last section by performing a few of their original songs. The attendees then watched a TED talk of Tim Urban explaining his experiences with two different types of procrastinators.

Judith Knotts took the stage to communicate to the audience regarding the serious problem of homelessness, followed by Amy Bajracharya and Prarthana Pilla, two sophomores at the University of Texas at Austin who performed a Bollywood fusion dance to entertain the attendees. However, their dance didn’t last long before it was interrupted by a fire alarm. The audience and performers had to quickly evacuate the library and wait outside in the cold for more information. After a little while, everyone was allowed back inside.

“The fire alarm was truly unexpected. We always point out the fire exits at the beginning of the event but we never thought that would come into use. We didn’t know what was going on and then Katie [Kearney, the Communications Director,] and I had to suddenly run on stage and tell everyone to evacuate,” Machavarapu said. “We were in 30-degree weather in skirts and shorts and running in heels trying to talk to the team, library staff, firefighters, and all 300 attendees. It was crazy but I personally think we handled it as well as we could have for a situation like that. Our team is good at communication and it really came in handy.”

Despite the interruption, the TEDxYouth organizers managed to seamlessly invite the dancers back on stage to answer some questions about their performance. The last speaker of TEDxYouth was Diego Corzo who moved the audience through his experiences of immigration.

“The [email protected] event certainly inspired me and exposed me to a variety of topics such as the life of an immigrant in the DACA organization, the power of communication, and an insight on how dinosaurs became extinct,” Advika Rajesh ‘21 said. “These talks and the interactive activities between them had been enjoyable and a very unique experience to go through.”

Even with the unexpected fire alarm, the TEDxYouth team put together a memorable event with inspiring speeches and fun performances and activities. The audience was able to enjoy an educational day that will encourage them to pursue their passion and learn more about how they can make a difference.

“It was my last year on the team and I had my dream freshman year position so I hope it went well and that everyone enjoyed it. There was so much work put in by the team and it definitely didn’t go unnoticed. I think our event was super strong,” Machavarapu said.

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