What do war-predicting algorithms, sound-sculpted artwork, and obstacle-dodging drones all have in common?
The answer: Teens.
On May 16th TEDxTeen, presented by the We Are Family Foundation and powered by SAP, rocked New York City’s Scholastic Auditorium. Themed “Simply Irresistible,” the day of TEDx talks featured today’s youngest innovators using simple ideas to tackle the world’s most complex issues. Take Rebecca Dharmapalan, who at 16 took a camera through her hometown of Oakland to shine a light on the rampant, yet overlooked problem of child trafficking. Rebecca has won more than half a dozen film festival awards, bringing awareness to the fact that an estimated 100,000 children in the U.S. alone fall victim to sexual exploitation. Then there’s David Mace, who at 18 developed an algorithm to predict global atrocities, which he sold to the U.S. government. Today, David’s solution helps control more than $4 billion in international relief and improve more than 16 million lives each year.
Is your jaw still attached?
If not, the good news is that through the daylong series of TED-style talks, viewed live in 153 countries, more than a dozen young trailblazers like Rebecca and David unveiled the nuts and bolts behind making the world run better and improving people’s lives – in a big way. While diverse, many paths shared six common steps:
1. “Figure out what’s important – to you.” – Ben Nemtin
From their parents’ garages in Canada, Ben and three friends wrote down a list of 100 things they wanted to do before dying: play ball with Obama, have a beer with Prince Harry, write a #1 New York Times Bestseller. For each task accomplished, they committed to help a stranger accomplish one of his or her goals. Today, they have inspired millions to believe anyone can do anything through their MTV show The Buried Life. Ben’s top recommendation? Know what’s truly vital, to you.
2. “Start with the low-hanging fruit.” – Lauren Singer
100% of the trash Lauren has produced within the past three years can fit in a 16-ounce jar. On top of having sent zero trash to a landfill since 2012, Lauren has empowered millions to produce less waste by creating the Zero Waste blog, Trash is for Tossers, and an organic cleaning product company, The Simply Co. What may seem like an impossible lifestyle began by simply starting with what was easy, like shopping at farmers’ markets with Lauren’s own reusable bags and containers.
3. “Look around. Think about how things work.” – Mihir Garimella
In order to create low-cost flying robots for search and rescue, Mihir has drawn inspiration from nature. By studying the basic behaviors and underlying mechanics of bacteria and fruit flies, Mihir has created Flybots, which can dodge collapsing ceilings and detect the source of fire in a burning building.
4. “Get obsessed.” – Dave Fontenot
Donned in University of Michigan pajama pants onstage, Dave discussed dropping out of college and AirBnB-ing for nearly a year and a half to devote his life to spreading the hackathon movement. Dave created MHacks, the largest hackathon in the world. His top advice: take a day, a weekend, or however long you need to get obsessed with a simply irresistible idea.
5. “Use your left and right brain.” – Rachel Fox
She’s one part rock star, one part actress, and one part…day trader? Rachel Fox is the next Warren Buffett, who at 16 years old made headlines for Fox on Stocks. She is living proof that the common paradox of “left- vs. right-brain” is a false one – if anything, the common phrase should be “left- and right-brain.” Assuming you’ve got both, use ‘em!
6. “Simply be You.” – Monique Coleman
The first and only United Nations Youth Champion, Monique is most widely known as one of Disney’s High School Musical stars. As the host of this year’s TEDxTeen in New York City, Monique closed the event with the conjecture that what the world needs most is for all people to simply be themselves.
Check out the full reel of TEDxTeen talks here. The SAP team congratulates all speakers and performers, as well as the winners of The Next Big Thing video competition: Kelvin Doe, Taylor DeVos, and Teagan Steadman. Keep in engaged with #SAPYouth!