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TEDx Manhattan Beach Challenges Community to Reimagine the Future

Nov 14, 2021 10:54AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The celebrated TEDx Manhattan Beach conference returned last week after a year on hiatus, bringing inspiring speakers and exhibits to nearly 500 attendees.

Fourteen speakers and 25 exhibitors presented some of their best and newest ideas, organized around the theme "Future Reimagined." From a space traveler, to a robotics scientist, to a creative mediator, the speakers showcased creative and groundbreaking concepts.

TEDx Manhattan Beach Speakers "Reimagine" the Future

The speakers laid out their ideas, plans, and hopes for the future through 5- to 10-minute "TED talks." The speakers, and their presentations, included the following:

Maryam Bakhtiyari, an orthodontist whose non-invasive treatment of TMJ, sleep apnea, teeth crowding, migraines, and childhood movement issues have earned her a devoted following. She explained how misplacement of the jaw can cause an avalanche of stress responses in the body that can go misdiagnosed as other issues. She demonstrated how a few simple breathing exercises and jaw movements can provide temporary relief and possibly identify sources of stress.

Cole Sternberg, a conceptual artist who imagines a societal future through creative thought and analysis. He explained how he drew up a constitution for an ideal society, the "Free Republic of California. He also crafted a detailed budget wherein there would be enough funding for health care, housing, education, and a protected environment for all. "There are possibilities for grand change... We can create the societies we dream of," he said.

Mary Lee, a mathematician at the RAND Corporation whose research interests include mathematical modeling and simulation of complex systems in the areas of defense/aerospace, cyber policy, health care, and chronic diseases. She spoke of the "Internet of Bodies," where in the future our bodies and brains will be wired in to advanced technology. Some advances she mentioned included "smart underwear" that could sense when our bodies are cold and warm us up, or "smart contact lenses" - worn by everyone - that could display the name and title of the person you are meeting.

Russ Prentice, a nuclear engineer and CEO of Halcyon Energy Systems, which he co-founded with the intent to bring water and power systems to remote villages in West Africa. He talked about ways that developing countries can use battery-powered solar generators to create new energy systems (and "leap-frog" over carbon-based power systems).

Sirisha Bandla, an aerospace scientist with Virgin Galactic who believes in making space more accessible to all through space tourism. She spoke of her recent voyage to space with Virgin Galactic, and described how it gave her a new perspective on the Earth and interconnectivity between people. "Space flight is not just for pilots and engineers anymore - space is for everyone," she said.

Amy Alkon, a professional mediator who also volunteers with the Dispute Resolution Program in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office. She spoke of several situations that seemed at an impasse, yet were able to be worked through. Her simple technique is "Listen to learn, instead of fighting to win," she said. "When you're actively learning about someone else, you're passively teaching them about yourself."

Hannah Gedion, a senior at Mira Costa High School, who spoke of the Diversify Our Narrative chapter at MBUSD, and the importance of integrating diverse voices into the curriculum. She talked about how "the danger of a single story" can make the study of history incomplete, and how ethnic studies could fill in that gap. "Leaving out stories is like trying to paint a portrait with only one color," she said, as she displayed an indistinct portrait with just black lines, and then added multiple colors to reveal a brightly colored peacock.

Marla Zaslansky, an education reform advocate who is calling for assigning value to competency, knowledge, talent, and experience that a person may have attained rather than a formal degree. She does not intend to replace education, she said, but "there is no magic recipe that says all of learning has to start in education." She called for a national qualification system that would allow individuals to build "individual competency portfolios" to display their experience and carry that from job to job.

Ruben Rojas, who left a profitable but unsatisfying corporate life to become an artist. Rojas paints empowering messages using his his “Live Through Love” brand to uplift communities and ignite creativity. He said he wants people to see his messages as reminders that "we all have a purpose, we all matter, and the world is a better place for us being here."

Shannon Ryan, a financial planner, who spoke about how past financial traumas or "financial scar tissue" can shape our personal narrative around money. Using case studies from past clients, she showed how an unwillingness to plan and save - or a fear of spending too much - can hold a person back from achieving our financial and personal goals. "Financial literacy that incorporates our personal narrative and addresses our financial 'scar tissue'" is the key to helping ourselves understand and plan for what is important to us, she said.

Huda Al-Marashi, the author of First Comes Marriage: My Not-So-Typical American Love Story. She spoke about her experience as an Iraqi-American about her assimilation into American culture, and about her efforts to bridge the cultural divide in her own life and in relationships with others. Rather than an “either/or” thinking (that she is "either" Iraqi "or" American, for example), she said that adopting an “AND” mindset has helped her - and can help others - observe other cultures with "interest, respect and appreciation."

Vinnie Malcolm, a longtime marketing and business development executive - as well as a crusader for mentoring. Noting that millennials are increasingly making up significant portions of the workforce, he said that it is "critical that we support this generation." He challenged audience members to tell the person next to them who the next person they mentor will be. "We can't afford not to step up and mentor them."

Peter Samuelson, a movie producer and fundraising activist who has turned his attention to housing the homeless. When he learned that building apartments would cost approximately $50,000 per person, he felt that there should be a more immediate solution. He developed Everyone Deserves A Roof (EDAR) — an $800, portable, functioning house that consists of a tent on wheels with a mattressed cot and storage. "It's not a solution." he said, "In a world where a '10' is a an apartment with a bed and a fluffy duvet, and a '0' is a lady living in a cardboard box, then this is a '5' on a good day - but it's still better than a '0.'" Samuelson added, "On the day that everyone is housed, I pledge that we will crush all of the EDARs and recycle the metal."

Dennis Hong, the founding director of RoMeLa (the robotics & mechanisms laboratory) of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at UCLA. He explained his lab's different attempts at creating robots that can walk in any direction and climb stairs without falling down. Their latest creation, "Ballu," is a robot that can walk anywhere - even on water - and falls "up" because the whole upper "body" of the robot is a helium balloon. Hong then showed the audience a series of videos of the robots (and scientists) dancing together, which drew applause from the crowd.

Exhibits Showcase Locally Inspired Ideas

The "Expo" brought out a variety of local organizations and artists doing demonstrations and interactive activities. 

L.A.-based artist LA-based artist Aiseborn led participants in a "graffiti art" project to bring thoughts, dreams and wishes alive with color and texture. The final art piece will be displayed at Mira Costa High School.

Benkadi, the drummers from the film The Black Panther, offered a West African drum circle and dance performance.

Event sponsor ESMOA, the El Segundo Museum of Art, led several activities in advance of its new Experience 49: blue/s, a multi-sensory art exhibition.

Other crowd favorites included a Maker Space exhibit by MBEF, a circuitry and coding game from the Mira Costa AP Computer Science students, and CHAZZ, an innovative take on checkers sponsored by ESMOA and created by Bernard Zuenkeler and FREETERS.

Local entrepreneurs with their wares on display included Hank Disser of Hank's Pickles at the GROW booth, Mercy Fabila of Bashi Bakes, and Taylor Ryan of Unstoppable Protective Gear.

TEDx Brings TED Ideas to Local Communities

The Manhattan Beach TEDx conference is now in its 11th year. Traditionally held on the first Saturday in November on the Mira Costa High School campus, the event is one of the most well-known and well-attended of its kind in the country.

The first TED conference was held in 1990, as a way to throw an international national spotlight on "ideas worth spreading" through short, powerful talks. TEDx events are local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

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