TEDx speaks out

Junior+Zenith+Jahid+introduces+Dr.+Judith+Knotts%2C+a+speaker+at+the+TED+conference+and+an+advocate+for+homeless+in+the+Austin+area.+Jahid+and+other+students+helped+to+organize+the+event+which+was+aimed+at+students+in+Austin.+photo+courtesy+of+TEDxYouth+Austin
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TEDx speaks out

Junior Zenith Jahid introduces Dr. Judith Knotts, a speaker at the TED conference and an advocate for homeless in the Austin area. Jahid and other students helped to organize the event which was aimed at students in Austin. photo courtesy of TEDxYouth Austin

Junior Zenith Jahid introduces Dr. Judith Knotts, a speaker at the TED conference and an advocate for homeless in the Austin area. Jahid and other students helped to organize the event which was aimed at students in Austin. photo courtesy of TEDxYouth Austin

Junior Zenith Jahid introduces Dr. Judith Knotts, a speaker at the TED conference and an advocate for homeless in the Austin area. Jahid and other students helped to organize the event which was aimed at students in Austin. photo courtesy of TEDxYouth Austin

Junior Zenith Jahid introduces Dr. Judith Knotts, a speaker at the TED conference and an advocate for homeless in the Austin area. Jahid and other students helped to organize the event which was aimed at students in Austin. photo courtesy of TEDxYouth Austin

Max Domel, Staff Writer

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The isolated sound of the speaker’s voice spreads throughout the library and fills the hearts and minds of the audience with wisdom and empathy, followed by the whirring of machines. On Feb. 9, the Austin branch of the TEDxYouth (TEDx) organization hosted a variety of speaker presentations, interactive stations and performances at the Austin Public Library. Junior and event organizer Zenith Jahid appreciated the bonding moments and learning experiences she gained on her dedicated journey of organizing and running the large-scale event.

The event lasted from 1 to 5 p.m., although members of the TEDx planning team arrived early in the morning to help set up the venue and get all of the guests comfortable. Some of the sponsors included families of the TEDx team members and official companies such as Capital Metro, Austin Energy, P. Terry’s and Alamo Drafthouse. This year, the theme of the event was “outspoken,” which meant that presentations and activities were centered around discussing controversial topics through creative mediums.

According to junior and volunteer photographer Ben Appel, the experience was valuable because he learned alot from the speaker presentations.

“There were actually a bunch of really cool talks from people, and I was glad I was there because while I was taking photos I also got to hear some really awesome stories and ideas from the speakers,” Appel said.

Speakers and performers from a range of professional fields and interests held thematic presentations, such as University of Texas freshman and the founder of Trashbots Rohit Srinivasan, tectonic plate and climate scientist Sean Gulick and Austin social worker and poet Sara Bawany. Local 16-year-old musician and songwriter Noah Levine and the University of Texas’ only female Bollywood dance team, led by Amy Bajracharya and Prarthana Pilla, were also there to entertain in between informational activities. There were also “X-labs” stations that showcased many local organizations and their products. Some X-labs focused on innovative technology, like DroneBlocks, Sphero RoboRacers, and Build a Magazine while others were more connected to society and politics, such as Functional Democracy, Empowering Artistry and Inspiration Over Obligation.

Before the public was able to see the final product and the lineup of guests and activities, there was almost a year of planning hosted by the youth team. From the first nine months of preparation to the final days before the event, Jahid was in charge of doing many things and was given multiple titles.

“In the summer, I was the lead on planning for some fundraising events,” Jahid said. “However, as we got closer to the event, I became the lead of experience design, which focused more on making sure the event felt like a TED conference and the attendees could enjoy it.

Senior and event organizer Zayan Vhora remembers one special memory that he made with his fellow team members over the course of the year. While preparing for the event, he enjoyed the taking breaks with other members from the constant work.

“One night we all went over to one person’s house and watched TED talks for four hours trying to figure out which ones we wanted to include in our event,” Vohra said. “Of course, a lot of that time was spent goofing off, but it’s whatever, you can’t expect teenagers to be completely productive.”

Vohra said that the most important thing he gained from the experience was how to be a good leader. He learned the most beneficial qualities to have while planning for and running an event

“The most valuable thing I learned was how to be flexible, adaptive and keep my stress levels down,” Vohra said. “You can’t plan for everything and sometimes you just have to go with the flow.”

Jahid learned more about team dynamics and functional relationships. She loved getting to work with the responsible and caring TEDx team along the way.

“Everyone on the team is really supportive and understanding, and honestly, that’s probably what I enjoyed the most,” Jahid said. “The team had seen me at my worst and at my best, and I am forever grateful for them for being the backbone of the whole event.”

One interesting and unplanned event that happened towards the end of the day was that the fire alarm went off inside the library, causing discomfort and chaos, but great opportunities for photos.

“We all had to evacuate into the park across the street on what was a pretty chilly day,” Appel said. “I thought it was a stroke of luck because it really spiced up my job as a photographer.”

After everyone was able to return to the building, Vohra said the team was able to move past the setback calmly and that he was appreciative of his peers and how they solved the issue.

“I knew something was going to go wrong the day of the event, and the fact that it was something completely out of our control and we handled it excellently makes me really proud to be a part of the team,” Vohra said.