Voices of the Future are heard at inaugural Perse TEDx event

Inspiring talks from students and academics provided lots of food for thought in the first-ever TEDx event at The Perse.

Featuring fascinating lectures across a wide range of topics, Voices of the Future was the theme for ‘TEDx The Perse School Cambridge Youth’, organised by Sergio Arcidiacono (Upper Sixth) with support from Perse Head of Research Hazel Knight.

Ioanna MacKenna (Upper Sixth) kicked off proceedings with a talk about the influence of social media platform TikTok on politics and Neelkantha Mukherjee (Lower Sixth) explored the application of brain-machine interfaces in medicine and therapy.

‘Do psychopaths benefit society?’ was the thought-provoking question tackled by Hannah Pang (Year 11) as she sought to destigmatise the term, while Riddhi Bhimpuria (Year 11) pondered whether the emerging field of precision medicine in relation to breast cancer can be affected by race.

Henry Field (Year 11) delved into the potential effects of artificial intelligence on the future workplace, while Sorcha Brickel (Upper Sixth) gave a presentation on pirate society being an egalitarian role model.

Meanwhile, Cambridge University academics Dr Jonathan Shanahan and Dr Clare Chambers gave talks on research into the eradication of tuberculosis and the idea of ‘shametenance’ – how people try to change their natural bodies because they feel inadequate – respectively.

Sergio, who also compered the event, said: “Our speakers really delivered, they went beyond all expectations. We think it lived up to the TEDx motto of having talks on ideas that are worth spreading.

“The vast majority of the audience was students and the feedback from them was very positive, so while I knew it would be a lot of work to do, I feel it’s been worth it.”

TEDx events are independently organised lectures that take place around the world, inspired by the philosophy of the renowned TED Talks programme.

Having enjoyed watching Ted Talks online, Sergio decided to go about setting up a TEDx event at The Perse 18 months ago.

After being given the go ahead by the school to apply for a TEDx licence, the process began with Sergio filling out extensive forms. Once the application was granted, he then had to pass an online test to ensure he would have all aspects of staging such an event covered to the required standard.

Sergio started to plan the event around a year ago, with one of the key factors being putting together a line-up of engaging speakers. He was keen to have Perse students form the basis of the programme.

He said: “We have a fantastic research portfolio at the school not only with Sixth Form students, but also younger pupils who have done quite high level and impressive research. We applied for a TEDx youth licence which meant we could have that aspect.

“We had more than 30 students wanting to take part, so we did events where we got them to sell their talk to us before getting it down to six speakers.

“We’re talking about the cream of the crop of students in terms of the research they’ve done for their age. I think it was quite an enjoyable experience for them.”

However, Sergio also wanted to include a couple of guest speakers on the bill, “people at the top of their fields to talk about their research and inspire our student body”.

He was stunned to receive interest from academics as far afield as the US and Germany after posting a message on LinkedIn but was delighted with the contributions of Dr Shanahan and Dr Chambers.

Sergio added: “I’ve learned so much from this, whether it’s knowing how to tactfully reach out to speakers or building up confidence by doing the hosting on stage.

“It was absolutely worth the effort and it’s also quite cool to say you’ve managed your own ‘global’ event!”

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