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TEDxMacatawa Brings Ideas, Innovation to Holland

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On Tuesday, March 19, several hundred visitors flocked to the Holland Civic Center for TEDxMacatawa. The event — which first came to Holland in 2012 — was independently organized but inspired by the nonprofit group TED.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. It began in 1984 as a conference dedicated to Ideas Worth Spreading, most often in the form of short talks.

The four-hour presentation was emceed by Mike Goorhouse, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, which helped sponsor the event.

“The whole point of today is to have a community gathering where we can learn a whole lot, be inspired, share ideas,” Goorhouse said.

The event consisted of eight speakers — each of whom were chosen from a pool of candidates that pitched their ideas in October 2018 — and replayed talks from other TED events.

In his presentation, Grand Rapids entrepreneur and web designer Cameron Versluis compared the human need for social validation to cooking.

“I believe thoroughly, with all my heart, that the social approval that we are looking for is just a taste,” Versluis said.

“If we don’t get that taste, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean we’re not enough. It doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with us. It doesn’t mean we’re not loved or that we’re not valuable. It simply means that we might need to change our recipe.”

Madi Hammond, a ninth grader at NorthPointe Christian Schools in Grand Rapids, sought to explain the daily fear experienced by members of Generation Z (anyone born from 1996-2015), in part due to negative media.

“There’s no putting Google back in the box,” Hammond said. “This is not just my reality and Gen Z’s reality, but could potentially be the reality for generations to come.”

Tom Guarr, director of research and development at the MSU Bioeconomy Institute and co-founder of Jolt Energy Storage, outlined a future without grids — powered by solar energy and organic batteries.

“We can disconnect the grid entirely,” Guarr said. “That gives us a way to finally bring 100 percent reliable solar-derived power on a 24/7 basis to those 1 billion people that didn’t have it 15 minutes ago.”

Jordan Vanhemert, artistic director of the Holland Concert Jazz Orchestra, illustrated the importance of valuing all voices with jazz music.

“Can you imagine what our world would be like if everyone listened to the way jazz musicians listen on the bandstand?” Vanhemert said. “Can you imagine how society would change? Can you imagine what wonderful things we would get done?”

Entrepreneur, anthropologist, and author Veronica Kirin described how people born before 1945 understand technology on a deeper level than others.

“The greatest generation has lived so long without high tech that they still stop to think, ‘Do I want this?’” Kirin said. “Their decisions aren’t based on cool factors, but whether or not technology will supplement their lives or hinder them.”

Saleem Usmani, an IT professional at Herman Miller, explained the difference between perception and reality — and the dangers of making decisions based on the former, rather than the latter.

“Perception and reality coexist to make sense of the world around us,” Usmani said. “But, just like reality, if what we see, what we hear and what we feel is also informed by misinformation or lack of information, perceptions can distort our realities.”

Bob VandePol, executive director of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services’ Employee Assistance Program, outlined the difference between survivors and thrivers after trauma.

“It’s important after a tragedy or after some condition that produces a real hardship not to allow yourself to be defined as just that,” VandePol said. “Because there’s more to you.”

To wrap up the event, Jeff Stout — executive director of research, technology and new mobility at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors — highlighted a wave of change coming to the automotive industry and the need for consumer involvement.

“We’re dealing with a change that’s unprecedented,” Stout said. “The society of tomorrow will look very different, and the way that it looks is being decided by people running companies — and you have not been part of that conversation, most likely at all.”

To view the event in its entirety, visit tedxmacatawa.org. Video available soon!

  • Cassandra Bondie via Holland Sentinel News