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TEDxSydneySalons are the smaller, smart relatives of the TedX events offering intimate, evening events combining talks, films and music. Designed to spark discussion and debate, TEDxSydneySalons are a great forum to exchange ideas and kickstart collaborations. The February 2017 incarnation investigated the theme of technology and took place in Tower Two, International Towers, in Sydney’s newest suburb, Barangaroo, which is heralded as a nexus of innovation in design, engineering, and sustainability.
The lineup included an interview with 2016 TEDxSydney speaker Dr.Jordan Nguyen, a visionary writer, and engineer, who shared his latest technological learning and personal insights into the use of innovative, intelligent and assistive technology, which is aimed at the improvement of the lives of those who struggle with physical handicaps.. Nguyen has a track record of enegaing closely with a range of individuals with Cerebral Palsy, which created the transition to Jessica Irwin, a young woman who was born with a high level of cerebral palsy and with an equally high level of self-determination and raw talent, who joined Nguyen to speak about the role of technology in her creative life: She’s a photographer and although she loves snapping pictures of musicians, her dream has been to perform with them. Now, thanks to an instrument newly, which can be played with her eyes and developed by Jordan Nguyen, this has become a reality, enabling her to fulfill her dream of playing music onstage with other musicians, culminating in a performance at Sydney’s Opera House. The software allows a person to control the computer with their eyes and basically plays her music device that was custom-made with Jessica.
Joining Jess Irwin on stage were the soloist and chamber musician, Thomas Rann, and violist James Wannan from the Australia Piano Quartet as well as Jack Symonds, a composer, conductor and accompanist, and Artistic Director of Sydney Chamber Opera.
In addition, we heard from John Goh, an inspiring school principal from Merrylands in South Western Sydney whose innovative practices using disruptive technologies are transcending traditional school learning. When Goh noticed children dozing off in afternoon classes, he decided to trial starting the school day earlier. It was a radical idea and out of step with the state’s centralised public school system but Goh believed it to be the perfect solution for Merrylands East Public School. Now his school community is considering a plan for lessons to be held from 8am to 1.15pm before students work at a homework centre until 3pm. He believes schools should be innovative, flexible and continually give back to the local community. Six years ago, the school decided to install 68 solar power panels – saving thousands on its electricity bill. About 10% of his students are former refugees and the vast majority of students learn English for the first time when they start school. Goh endeavours to enable all of his students to become literate in information and communications technology and class blogs, electronically pen-paling and conversing via email and virtual chat rooms, video conferencing and working on video productions.
Swift change of topic: Alice Gorma is an internationally recognised leader in the emerging field of space archaeology and exploration. She introduced us to the concept of “lunar mining” and asked us to consider how it will affect the way we feel about the Moon.Singer, multi-instrumentalist and harpist, Jake Meadows rounded off the proceedings with a modern marriage of not one but three harps in all their glory and electronics, which transitioned into post-event sunset drinks and discussions, where TEDx community members could try out a DJ mash up box: A touch screen onto which cubes with instruments / vocals could be placed and moved to create unique sounds and thereby a playful DJ experience of another kind.
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