x = independently organized TED event

Theme: Catalysts for Tomorrow

This event occurred on
November 12, 2011
8:30am - 5:00pm EST
(UTC -5hrs)
Waterloo, ON

We live in an age where ideas can spread like wildfire, where tools can be harnessed to connect people across vast distances and where people can be mobilized en masse with the click of a button.

Social movements across the world are now being spurred on by the use of incredibly powerful, highly-scalable technologies that can turn desire into action within minutes. The gap between our ideas and ability to take charge of our reality can be crossed in a single stride, and although we are inspired by revolutionary ideas, but we are equally inspired by revolutionary leaders and agents of change.


Because they took action.

This is what TEDxUW captures – the excitement of taking action and showcasing the achievements of those people who defied the naysayers and created things, built relationships and brought their ideas to life.

And that’s just today.

Can you imagine tomorrow?

Hagey Hall Theatre of the Humanities
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1
Event type:
University (What is this?)
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Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Raynold Alorse

A successful motivational speaker, entrepreneur and talent coach, Raynold’s story of hope, perseverance and hard work will inspire you to take action and “dream bigger, dare bigger, demand and serve better”. A uWaterloo graduate with joint Honours in Political Science and Arts and Business, Raynold is the recipient of the prestigious Head of State Award in Ghana, was an active member of the uWaterloo community where he served as a Global Representative and Waterloo Ambassador, and was the recipient of the prestigious Kerr Ostrander Leadership for Tomorrow Award.

Larry Smith

Throughout his three-decade career here at the University of Waterloo, Larry Smith has inspired legions of students to take up the mantle of economics with his passionate and homespun tales of economic wizardry. A renowned story-teller, teacher and youth leadership champion, Larry has also coached and mentored countless numbers of students on start-up business management and career development strategies. Having taught introductory microeconomics, macroeconomics and entrepreneurship classes, he recently celebrated assigning his 29,000th grade earlier this year. Recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, Larry has also coached several of his former students to help them position and develop their businesses, the most famous of which is Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the revolutionary BlackBerry wireless mobile smartphone. Larry also sits on the advisory panels of start-ups to provide his guidance on financing and negotiation with investors and venture capitalists.

Natalie MacNeil

Natalie MacNeil is the Emmy Award winning co-founder of Imaginarius, a boutique firm which has produced award-winning digital media. A serial entrepreneur and innovator – she abides by a philosophy of “Live. Work. Learn” enabling her to showcase her talents for startups and innovation through an internationally-recognized blog for women. As the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of She Takes On The World, a multiple award-winning blog that was recently listed by Forbes on in its review of the “Top 10 Entrepreneurial Sites for Women”, Natalie has parlayed her knack for writing into regular gigs for the Huffington Post, Forbes, and has also contributed business advice for the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur magazine, Mashable, The Star and the National Post. In 2010 Natalie was awarded Canada’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Impact Organization, she was also the recipient of the prestigious Stevie Award for Blog of the Year.

Krister Shalm

An experimental physicist by profession, Krister is interested in unlocking everyday applications for quantum physics. His challenge? To demonstrate that technologies based on the science of quantum physics have the potential to unleash the next technological revolution. And if that wasn’t enough, take into account that this is all from a person who’s well-known for dancing his PhD thesis and hosting “The Quantum Physics of Harry Potter”. Yes, Krister is a gifted presenter and a talented performer, and with his near god-like ability to explain the complex minutae of quantum mechanics in layman’s terms, Krister also happens to be a local hero. A Junior Fellow of the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research (CIFAR) working in the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo, Krister recently challenged one of the fundamental rules of quantum physics, which states that a quantum system cannot be observed without being changed in the process. Using specialized instruments, his team disproved this rule by demonstrating that the movements of light particles can actually be tracked without being disrupted, contrary to the findings of the famous double-slit experiment. Consequently, his discovery is generating waves of excitement in the world of physics, and in addition to being published in the upcoming issue of Science magazine, he has also been interviewed for CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, the Economist and the BBC.

Maria Ly

A dynamic athlete-turned-entrepreneur, Maria is a vocal champion of the youth entrepreneurship culture. By combining her twin passions for physical fitness and technology, she has revolutionized the health and fitness movement by extending the reach of mobile technology into this fast-growing market. Gymnastics, yoga, rock climbing, mountaineering – you’d think that one person couldn’t have done it all. But you’d have thought wrong. Maria has practiced yoga at K2 base camp, initiated rock climbing missions that carry some of the highest difficulty grades, and has represented Canada at the World Cheerleading and Dance Championships. It’s all in a day’s work, really. A graduate of the Computer Engineering program from the University of Waterloo, Maria co-founded Skimble – a mobile healthcare and fitness startup whose “Workout Trainer” application provides on-demand personal training workouts to hundreds of people around the world. Maria understands the challenges of sustainable fitness in a day and age dominated by quick-fix remedies and nutritional supplements, and she has been helping others achieve their fitness goals, sustainably, one click at a time.

John Baker

One of the University of Waterloo’s top-notch success stories – John Baker is the epitome of a successful change-agent. With his nothing-ventured-nothing-gained philosophy, John’s passion for redefining the future of education has been buttressed by his career as an entrepreneur. A Systems Design Engineer from the University of Waterloo, John founded Desire2Learn after recognizing an unfulfilled desire for online learning. What started off as a small business venture catering to a handful of departments at the university is now a world-class provider of enterprise-scale education management systems and eLearning solutions, enabling institutions and organizations to create teaching and learning environments that reflect their visions, values and goals. A critically-acclaimed entrepreneur and member of Top 40 Under 40 of the Waterloo Region in 2009, John dedicates himself to teaching entrepreneurs that big challenges should not be viewed and approached as challenges, but rather as opportunities for them to make an impact and distinguish their caliber.

Tanya De Mello

Whether acting as a United Nations Field Officer or as a local student volunteer, Tanya De Mello’s work has always been focused on building communities. Whether it’s through creating community service initiatives at universities, managing humanitarian aid donations in Senegal or assisting with refugee relocation planning, Tanya excels at bringing people together around shared ideas to build vibrant communities. Her commitment and zeal for enacting change has earned her several distinctions, including McGill’s prestigious Scarlet Key Award and Princeton’s esteemed Donald E. Stokes Award for leadership and academic excellence. Between running two Non-Governmental Organizations, working for the United Nations and currently studying for her law degree, Tanya also finds the time to kick-start new initiatives such as the Community Capture JOINT project – a community-led photo display that addresses the complex dimensions of pressing social issues, while inviting community members and organizations alike to participate in the process of creating change. And what’s the common denominator that underlies all of her achievements? Tanya firmly believes that efforts taken to bring about change, even at a very local level, can be as transformative as the largest of international development projects. Start small, but start now – that is what will make the greatest difference tomorrow.

Wendi Adair

Cross cultural communication, negotiation, behavioral adaptation, inclusivity, conflict management – to the ordinary ear these words may sound like a collection of banal seminar topics, but in the hands of Dr. Wendi Adair they transform into a window of opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of the human psyche. From teaching MBA students at Cornell University to consulting for non-profits and businesses in New York City and Chicago, Dr. Adair has made a career out of plumbing the far-flung recesses of the human mind in order to decode its complex rhythms and patterns. Currently an Associate Professor of Organizational Psychology at the University of Waterloo, Dr. Adair’s research focuses on cross-cultural communication, negotiation and the role of multicultural social ties within team dynamics. Some of her more famous work includes an investigation into the universality of negotiation theory, which has been largely developed in western culture to define the cultural norms and general context for negotiation strategies, sequences, and stages to be successful with multiple national cultures. Her research on reciprocity in cross-cultural negotiations has received awards from both the American Psychological Association and the International Association for Conflict Management, and her research identifying the different paths that American and Japanese negotiators take to generate joint gains was recognized with an award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.

Janna Cameron

A champion for accessible design in technology, Janna Cameron’s work has been focused on extending the reach of technology to a portion of the population has been inadvertently sidelined. By working closely with developers, designers and engineers to develop a fuller understanding of how people with disabilities use the web, Janna has parlayed a passion for user research into a career that has helped remove barriers to education. She brings a sense of humor and optimism to her work, encouraging others to join her in making the web accessible to all. As a Systems Design Engineer, Janna was extensively involved within the uWaterloo community and was commended for demonstrating exemplary leadership on-campus. She was awarded the prestigious Federation of Students Leadership award, as well as the revered Paula Plummer award for enhancing student life within the Faculty of Engineering. Janna was also a founding member of the RIM Usability Team, and is responsible for pioneering several different approaches towards developing technology that have empowered the disabled to participate in mainstream society.

Chelsea Prescod

An ardent community-builder, Chelsea Prescod has made it her life’s mission to encourage communities to extend and strengthen their social ties and embrace change as opportunities for renewal. Armed with a Masters degree in Business, Entrepreneurship & Technology and a B.A in Economics from the University of Waterloo, she is the founder and CEO of The Adva Effect – a digital media agency with a strong focus on producing short films and featurettes to highlight pressing social issues. Chelsea is currently a Board Liaison and Executive Coordinator to the President & CEO of the Credit Valley Hospital Foundation, an executive member of the Zonta Club of Mississauga – an organization that provides social advocacy on behalf of oppressed women in the global sphere, and a Talent Wrangler on CBC’s Battle of the Blades Season 3.

Philip Beesley

An architect by profession but an artist by calling, Philip Beesley is a pioneer whose architectural breakthroughs have earned him international acclaim. Perhaps most well-known for his extensive contributions to architectural environments that mimic life processes, Philip envisions a building that keeps on adjusting, slowly, logically and in response to its surroundings – almost as if it’s conscious and alive. Art and technology, when designed in such a manner, allow the creator to transcend the limitations of traditional schools of thought that focus on subject/object, organic/inorganic, static/dynamic and other types of binary worldviews. A professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture in Cambridge, Ontario, Philip’s experimental research centres on the development of new responsive environments. Hylozoic Soil is part of a series of works that use proximity sensors to trigger tiny structures which assemble into a tangled network of “clouds” and tremble as visitors pass. Philip represented Canada at the Venice Biennale for Architecture, with a similar design called “Hylozoic Ground” that sipped water from a nearby lagoon – sifting carbon from the water to produce limestone which theoretically could be utilized to shore up the city of Venice’s sinking ground. His designs have attracted worldwide press attention – including that of the Discovery Channel. A prolific author and thought leader, he has authored and edited eight books, three international proceedings and a number of catalogues, and has appeared on the covers of prestigious journals such as Artificial Life and Leonardo. Honored with some of the highest distinctions such as the Prix de Rome in Architecture, the Dora Mavor Moore Award and several Distinguished Performance awards from the University of Waterloo, his ground-breaking ideas are sure to redefine your experiences at the intersection of life, technology and the process of design.

Safwan Choudhury

An engineer determined to make a difference, Safwan Choudhury wanted to do what was widely held to be impossible: build a fully-functional wheelchair that could be controlled by a person’s thoughts – all within 8-month time period, with a team of five full-time undergraduate engineering students and only $1500 in funding. Against all odds, his team pulled it off. They developed a fully-functional prototype of their thought-controlled wheelchair, presenting it at the 2011 University of Waterloo Design Project Symposium. Driven by a vision of enabling the paralyzed and the paraplegic to enjoy the gift of movement once again, their invention drew massive crowds and tons of praise, ultimately winning them first place at the 2011 Infusion Design Cup Challenge and beating more than 50 other teams along the way.Using an electroencephalographic (EEG) headset to read brain activity, interpret it as a desired action and then execute the command via microcontrollers embedded into the wheelchair frame itself, users can simply ‘think’ about moving in a particular direction and the wheelchair follows through. In line with this success, Safwan is now pursuing an MASc in the field of humanoid robotics. His next challenge? To design the lower body of a bipedal human-like robot that will one day enable us to develop more energy-efficient robots that we can use to take over the world.

Ron Tite

An immensely popular and highly sought-after speaker, comic, actor, host and writer, Ron Tite’s unique and often quirky riffs on creativity, personal branding, social media and corporate strategy have helped keep companies ahead of the curve in world dominated by 140-character commentaries. With close to fifteen years of experience as a professional entertainer, Ron is widely regarded as a class act with a solid brand in the professional speakers’ circuit. Trained at the legendary Second City comedy and improv theatre, he is currently CEO of The Tite Group, a Toronto-based content marketing agency that works with brands and media properties. With experience speaking at several high-profile speaker series, conferences and corporations across North America, including The 50 Best Managed Companies, The Art of Management series, Deloitte, KPMG and Volvo, Ron was recently recognized as one of Canada’s Top 10 Creative Canadians by Management Magazine. And rightly so; in addition to parlaying his talent for wordplay into a successful writing career for several television series, and having recently authored a children’s book, he has also been the creative genius behind a series of highly-acclaimed campaigns for Air France, Evian, Intel, Microsoft and RBC. His work has garnered international acclaim, earning him awards and accolades from the London International Advertising Awards, The New York Festival of Advertising and the Canadian Management Association, and helped pave the way for special features on CBC’s Venture, BNN, Off the Record, MediaTelevision and RadioActive.

Organizing team


Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • Sharath Sundar
    Marketing Director
  • Harsh Shah
    Finance Director
  • Angela Biskupovic
    Communications & Attendee Relations Director
  • Katrina Di Gravio
    Speaker Relations Director
  • Ryan Voisin
    Production Director