Ignite Waterloo – a slice of Waterloo’s zeitgeist

Few events can be considered the right-of-passage for a young, dynamic, social-media-savvy yuppie in Kitchener-Waterloo, but Ignite Waterloo definitely makes it onto the list.


Because it’s Ignite, but also because it’s Ignite Waterloo (check out the Twitter Stream here), but before you beat me with a stick, allow me to explain.

As I referenced in an earlier post, Ignite Waterloo pits the best of Waterloo’s young, up-and-coming speaking talent against a deck of powerpoint slides designed to transition every 15 seconds, wrapping up speeches into a compact 5-minute burst of wisdom.

And it works. The format strikes a balance between the infusion of new ideas, and the brevity of the human attention span coupled with the need for instant gratification. Speeches are just informative enough to comfortably broaden your knowledge, and just short enough to ensure that they’re not eye-glazingly long.

Some of the talks were brilliant, some were average, but the true value of the event lay in the breadth of topics covered by the speakers, giving attendees a brief glimpse of the vibrant Waterloo zeitgeist.

Here’s a brief recap of each speech:

Graham Moogk-Soulis – Comics on That Internet Thing

Graham gave us a theatrical introduction to the world of webcomics – and why we should pay more attention to one of the fastest-growing internet trends on the planet.

Patrick McMahon – Free Flight

Taking us on a “self-actualizing” tour of the skies through the eyes of a glider pilot, Patrick introduced us to the joys of “soaring” as a popular hobby. Using the power of thermal currents, a glider can stay airborne for hours at a stretch.

Jennifer Gough – The Ultimate Question

Jennifer stoked our grey matter with a talk on asking ourselves The Ultimate Question: What if we could do anything? What would we do? Jennifer herself gave up a full-time profession to follow her passion and become an artist, so the weight of her anecdotes resonated throughout.

Rebecca Blackburn – 26 Miles to Boston

Extolling the virtues of long-distance marathon running, Rebecca shared her experience of running in the Boston Marathon, and how the gruelling run contributed to the her outlook on life.

Natalie Brown – Follow Your Passion

Natalie discussed the use of conversation as a means of social change. Talk TO people, not AT people, and watch change unfold – a great segue into the theme of open communication embodied by Ignite Waterloo.

Kate Daley – Three Things You Should Know about Education and Oppression

Kate escribed the discrepancy between the values we adhere to as part of greater society, and the personal lessons that we teach our children through the education system – and how to bridge the divide between the two.

Alisa McClurg – Global Climate Change: Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions

Discussing the connections between religion, spirituality, and the need for increased awareness of climate change, Alisa introduced us to the spiritual aspects climate change.

Raul Suarez – Hapiness is a personal choice

Raul discussed how “Happiness” was “a personal choice”, limited only by your desire to enjoy the immediate. A great talk from a “happy guy”, Raul’s light banter makes us rethink our approach to finding happiness in an ever-depressing world.

Caitie Rosen – Laughter is the Best Medicine

Caitie discussed the medicinal and aesthetic aspects of laughter, and the role of the Internet in helping us retain this valuable aspect of our lives.

Evan Thor – Management Madness

Evan discussed the management phenomenon: how managers always seem to be promoted to the point of incompetence, and placed in charged of others based on the their prior accomplishments – but not necessarily by their ability to manage.

Natalie MacNeil – Ongoing History of Social Media

Natalie walked us through a history of social media before social media, such as cave wall paintings made by our ancestors in order to communicate with one another, and the original “Twitter” messenger pigeons, carrying our tweets across the 7 seas and back.

Maryam Ashoori – Data Art

Discussing her ideas of crowdsourcing digital art, Maryam gave us examples of her creations, such as the composite of pictures submitted by millions of people used o recreate an image of a one dollar bill,

Sue Sturdy – If We Can Knit Breasts, We Can Knit Bridges

Riffing about knitting, knitting and more knitting, Sue shared some of more innovative projects (toques for cars anyone?), while also sending a call-to-action for people to join her in her next project – knitting a cover for a bridge.

TJ Hatton – All My Ex Girlfriends Are Crazy

A contentious topic, TJ entertained us with some quirky gender analysis. Although he generate quite a few rumblings (and tweets galore) from the crowd, he nevertheless kept us going for the entire duration of his talk.

Anshula Chowdhury – How a $40 Burger Can Change the World

People who eat Big Macs usually eat more then 3 burgers a week – in addition to this frightening statistic, Anshula discussed how the cost of a product usually never takes into account the social/environmental costs of mass consumption.

Anfernee Chansamooth – Are You Living A Deferred Life?

Lastly, Anfernee discussed how a close encounter with a brain tumour made him kick his “deferred life” habit – pursue his dreams.

All in all, it was a worthwhile experience and a great opportunity for people looking to break into the KW social scene.

Do you want to speak or get involved with Ignite Waterloo 4.0 this coming November? Contact them directly and apply to be a speaker or a volunteer.

VIDEOs TO COME SOON! (Did I miss any Twitter ID’s? Comment on this article and I’d be happy to include them)