People heard about ‘narcissistic Millennials’ and adoption and science stereotypes and bioethics, among plenty more, at the 13th semi-annual Ignite Baltimore, the local outpost of the civic-spirited lightning talk presentations event.
More than 400 people again packed the Brown Center at MICA, welcomed by the arts school’s David Gracyalny and Ignite lead organizer and software engineer Mike Subelsky. Look back at April’s last Ignite here.
This time, there was a bit of a science theme, with astrology and meditation for good measure. It was the first time the widely popular creative and inspiration series landed on the calendar of Baltimore Innovation Week, just in its second year.
As is becoming something of a custom, we offer our unofficial awards for the night’s speakers:
- Most Effort to Find You Have Self-Control — Michele Crisafulli took a 10-day pledge of silence as part of a program, which also relied heavily on meditation and spiritiual awakening. It’ll teach you something about yourself, she said. What did it teach her? “It’s a lot easier for me to not talk to other people than I expected,” she said.
- Best Use of Facebook — It took Catharine Robertson, who was adopted as a child, more than a decade to find her maternal birth grandfather, with the help of librarians, private investigators and family researchers. Once someone cracked the code, it took her 90 minutes to hear back from her birth mother once she found her on Facebook. Along with her mother came aunts and brothers and more. “I have family out the ass” now, she said. Read about her experience on her blog here.
- Clearest Government Spending Lesson — Chris Merriam of bicycling advocacy group Bikemore gave a walk down the development of car-friendly roads in Baltimore. Less congested, healthier streets would be better served with more multi-modal transit, including bicycling. “You get what you subsidize,” he said.
- Cleverest Way to Keep Art Materials Cheap — Wire artist Devin Mack wants to remind us all that an increasingly wireless world needs lots more wire to power it — from mobile devices to telecommunications infrastructure. As we advance as a society with our use of more intricate wiring, we’re becoming able to “hack the human brain,” he said. That’s all good because with wire production still happening, Mack can have access to cheap art supplies.
- Quickest Retirement Planning Consult — In his ‘Investing for the Average Person’ presentation, Nicholas Quigley gave quick sensible advice on sound, safe, simple investing. Put half of it in bonds and half in an index fund, Quigley said. Derivatives, options trading and Jim Cramer? If you don’t have the time to learn, don’t even worry about it.
- First Ignite Baltimore No Show – S. Lynn Cooper was due to tell us how everything the social media consultant learned about entrepreneurship came from gangster movies, but she didn’t show, much to the surprise of host Subelsky. We admit Technically Baltimore hasn’t been to every Ignite, but we do think it’s a first, and we’re not alone.
- Best Insight into Science Subcultures — “We’re not all old, white, gray-haired chemists,” said molecular biologist Adam Ruben, who doubles as a sometimes stand-up comic, in response to his Google image search of the word ‘scientist.’ His quick pitch on public perceptions of science also included an interesting quiz: if you took a cell of yours and cloned your DNA, how old would your clone be a year from now? Three months old, he said, because we must factor in the nine month incubation.
- Most Beautiful Eulogizing of Baltimore city fathers — Of the great, civic-minded rich white men who built the celebrated institutions around Mount Vernon Place, Paul Mathews came prepared: “They fought like warriors and dreamed like poets.” That’s how Baltimore grew ‘Grecian ideals’ in one of its most picturesque corners. And, no, it’s not a quote from Braveheart.
- Strongest Evidence of Rapid Globalization — Designer Carolyn Williams gave a sly nod to a local style movement by imploring attendees to better know “where your textiles are made” because they are a part of our everyday, like food and, heck, cotton is a plant too. But she also shared one of those kind of facts that surprise, even while supporting what you already know. Her statistics were a bit different, but she pointed to this impressive trend: in the 1960s, better than 98 percent of shoes were American made, and today, nearly that percentage is made overseas.
- Best Branding for a Business Idea without a Revenue Model Yet — After giving the “simple” explanation of how the Internet works, mobile app firm Smartlogic cofounder Yair Flicker shared a few utilities for a more completely web-connected world. Think about if each bullet, plastic water bottle and traffic light could be driven by data and broader sensibility and could improve efficiency, he said. Or, for another example, connect the web to every toilet, Flicker added, and call it “shit bit.”
- Clearest Reminder of How Technology Mirrors Society — As bioethicist Alisa M. Hughley put it: “Technology is neither bad nor good, but the applications we create can be and they are judged by ethics.”
- Simplest Call to Action — If you want to represent Baltimore better, then have some specific examples of why the city is great for when someone asks you on the spot, advised Trevor Villet, self-described white trash from Michigan who used Detroit’s struggles as a reminder of how good we have it.
- Best Advice from Lockheed Martin — IT program manager Chris Shafer shared thoughts from his corporate experience: “never cancel a meeting about risk.”
- Coolest High School Class Without Robots — At events like this these days, the love for youth programs always seems to go to robotics and maker classes, so kudos to Brad Wray of Arundel High School for teaching what sounds like a killer high school liberal arts class. Using classic experiments in psychology, he gets to explore the minds of “narcissistic millennials.” His biggest lesson from running a version of the prisoner’s dilemma nearly 200 times is that we need to incentivize collaboration, something he’s tried to do in class with sweets and snacks. “Competitive losers compete but get no candy,” he said.
- Least Expected Method for Sexual Fulfillment— Yup, apparently Mecca Woods can make you happier sexually if you understand yourself through astrology.
- Most Male Orientated Perspective on Cool Brain Understanding — Jeff Jerome gave a great walk-through on why you can spend hours making a simple decision like choosing a movie, while you’ll make important decisions, like buying a house, on quick first impressions — in short, complicated stuff paralyzes your higher thinking into “decisive dissonance” and leaves you with your instinctual self, while the trivial keeps you battling various wants. That said, we wished he used a few different analogies beyond the standard straight male stereotyped point of view, like using the super model as an object of attraction and applauding Star Trek’s Captain Kirk for “getting the girl.”
- Least Helpful Legal Advice — Game developer Tronster set up his talk on various technology laws with one of local relevance: it is apparently illegal in the City of Baltimore to sing the Star Spangled Banner with any ’embellishment,” something any decent O’s fan has likely ignored.
During intermission, four new Ignition grants were given out, thanks to the Warnock Foundation, which matched Ignite ticket sales to raise the money. The new Ignition grant winners including the following:
- Ping pong in the Park
- Bamboo Bike Tours in Station North
- Literary youth arts magazine by Mike Rennard
A $3,000 catalyst grant for past Ignition winner MotherMade was also announced.
There were also updates on other past Ignition grant winners, including a group of Hopkins physics and astronomy students who built a traveling planetarium and student-led New Lens, which is leading a clean-up project at Reservoir Hill.