Celebration of ideas draws 750 Colorado students

TEDxMileHigh Youth Event

Kelly Brough, CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and CU Denver alumna, talks about Denver 2.0 as Jeremy Duhon, TEDxMileHigh Youth Event emcee, listens.

Mandy Wong, a senior studying philosophy at the University of Colorado Denver, is fascinated by innovators, especially young ones.

So it only took a CU Denver email inviting her to TEDxMileHigh Youth Event, a celebration of innovation and risk takers, to prompt her to attend the June 1 event. About 750 students, mostly from high schools and middle schools across Colorado, attended the Youth Event at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in downtown Denver.

Scenes from TEDxMileHigh Youth Event:

Wong came across TED talks a couple years ago in one of her classes. TED is a national gathering on Technology, Entertainment and Design that features pre-eminent leaders, performers and researchers in a multiple-day exchange of forward-thinking ideas.

"I got really excited because the TED talks just breathe innovation and different ideas," Wong said. "I had just watched them online. I had always wanted to go to an event, so I think it's really awesome that they're having a youth version that's free to students."

The University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus was the presenting sponsor of the two-day TEDxMileHigh conference and the exclusive sponsor of the kick-off Youth Event.

Wong perused the many booths in the TEDxMileHigh Exhibits Lounge before settling into the auditorium to listen to a dozen presenters speak on the conference's theme of "Risk & Reward." Two of the speakers had university ties. Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, is a CU Denver alumna who spoke about the collaborative visioning process for the city of Denver, called Denver 2.0. And Jennifer Chipman, a water resource engineering student in the College of Engineering & Applied Sciences, spoke about her graduate research topic, "The Value of International Collaboration in Understanding How Climate Change Affects Water Supplies from Snow Dominated Catchments."

This was a second installment of our TED involvement this year. In April, the Anschutz Medical Campus was one of 100 sites around the country that presented simulcast screenings of the TEDMED 2012 conference in Washington, D.C.

The June 1-2 event in Denver allowed local residents to get an up-close view of the innovators, especially in the exhibitors' hall. Exhibitors with university ties included Tyler Huggins, Ph.D. candidate, with his microbial fuel cells; Vickie Berkley, assistant director for civic engagement, Colorado Center for Community Development, with a presentation about the Learning Landscapes program in the College of Architecture and Planning; and Stephen Katsaros, CEO of Nokero International, a company that offers solar technology solutions to poor, off-the-grid communities worldwide. Katsaros was a student in the CU Denver Business School's Bard Center of Entrepreneurship from 1998-99.

Work by all of the innovators is reflective of why the university connected with TEDxMileHigh.

"This event showcases a core value at the university which is innovation," said Chancellor Don Elliman. "Without the risk takers we have among our faculty and researchers, we would not see the breakthrough medical treatments, new technologies and community and academic programs that are helping so many throughout our community, the nation and world."

In announcing the university sponsorship to the crowd, the Youth Event moderator conveyed Elliman's comments to the student attendees: "The future depends on you asking questions, challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries that lead to improvements and breakthroughs."