Know Your Clubs – TED Club Of MIT


Motivating and changing the attitude of just 10% of the students of MIT is satisfactory enough.
Arul Prakash, Final Year ECE, chairman of TED, one of the newest but quite active clubs, in an interview with The MIT Quill.


When was TED started and by whom?

The idea of organizing TED talks came to us when we were in our third year. At the beginning, three of us talked, unofficially, in the Daalchini hotel, so I guess that was the seed. The success of these events motivated us to approach the Dean this July. Once the dean gave us the green signal, we had officially founded a TEDx club under the MIT banner. Initially there were around 30 core members in the club, and now we have expanded into being a club with around 120 members.


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That’s awesome. For the benefit of the ignorant, can you give us a brief outline of TED?

Sure! TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. Normally, in case you have noticed, talk shows adhere to a particular agenda, and revolve around certain topics only, which make them pretty boring if you ask me. TED aims to break this monotony, by widening the areas of issues that are talked about. For example, if there exists an idea on treating cancer, mostly, the same idea can be extended into treating other related diseases. However small an idea might be, there is no denying that under deeper research it might prove to possess huge potential. The main motive of TED is to recognize this potential behind every idea.


What was your vision when you decided to begin a TED club in MIT?

I noticed that most of the students in our college are quite single-minded in a way. There is this placement-after-degree-preparing-for-these-placements cycle that they get struck in, which according to me is unfortunate. I think you will agree. So we decided to take a step and motivate them to design and create new things, get involved creatively, with the bigger picture in mind. For example the projects done by students of Harvard, will always address a social cause. What we lack is awareness and this awareness should be fed from the very beginning. All we want to do is inculcate this sort of analytic thinking in our students.


How exactly do you plan to go about bringing this vision into reality?

We want to inspire the students to set goals for themselves based on their interests and their interests only. Herd – Mentality is a strict no-no. Even while choosing a company for a job, mere knowledge of the paycheck provided is in no way sufficient. So we make sure the students take the effort to find out the nature of their job i.e the domain in which they have to work. This sense will arrive if we listen to the journey and success stories of various achievers. This is our humble step towards arriving at this sensibility.


Right. Can you list down the activities that the club has organized?

Of course! We conducted a formal inauguration, but on the contrary, the format of TED is that it is informal. So, I guess that’s the reason why it didn’t go well. We then successfully conducted a TED event this September.
While TEDx is a sponsored event, which involves a lot of expenses, our talks are a more diluted form of the same, due to the lack of funds. We conduct a monthly series called ‘INNOVATE’. Apart from this we have also approached various companies to provide the students with project guidance. A few companies are also ready to sponsor projects if they believe in the original idea!


That’s very interesting! So, who is your favorite international TED speaker and why is he/ she your favorite?                                                                                                                                                                                         
One of the TED talks that moved me the most was given by an Indian woman, whose name I’m unable to recollect at the moment. She talked about a non-invasive methodology for detecting cancer. Usually, the process of detecting cancer is so arduous and time consuming that detecting it at the early stages becomes impossible. Hence, she presented her idea of detecting cancer cells based on the size of dead cells excreted along with urine and also curing it with robotic micro particles. This kick started the entire process.


How, according to you, does speaking to people bring a significant change in their attitude?
Don’t you think it contradicts the proven concept of ‘talk less- work more’?

Motivation stems, mainly from actions and their results, like you said. But this word of success must be spread. For instance, when we say that the life of Steve Jobs is a source of inspiration to us, it is because we heard so-and-so person talk about his achievements and it appealed to us greatly. These talks may not bring a significant difference in everyone’s thoughts, but 10% is satisfactory for me, as long as this small amount of people put their thoughts into action. The hope is that the remaining 90% of the students get inspired from this as well.


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What will you say to the students who are in a dilemma as to join the club / attend the talks?

As far as joining the club is concerned, I would say that it is essential to obtain some organizational experience in order to answer management oriented questions in interviews, if I have to put it that way. Such experience can be gained by organizing large scale events like these.

For those who are undecided on attending the talks, I would tell them to give one shot. We are taking efforts to ensure that we cover everyone’s interests in the events. The next event will be based on a survey involving the entire college. Turn a blind eye to what everyone else has to say. Come and see once for yourself and continue only if you think it was worth your time. Also, all sorts of feedback are welcome.


Any word of advice to the juniors who will take over after you?

My immediate juniors are well motivated for the club to sustain. I urge all the juniors to actively participate in club activities as they will definitely reflect on their resume. You will get to meet brilliant professors, speakers and innovators. This is also a chance to build bonds with seniors and friends and learn invaluable lessons.

Interviewed by Gowri Ramshankar, second year, Electronics and Instrumentation, Kishore, second year, Electronics and Communication Engineering, Swathi Mohan, Aerospace Engineering.

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