The Pelling Lab

University of Ottawa

Department of Physics

STEM Complex

150 Louis Pasteur

Ottawa, ON K1N6N5

Canada

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September 10, 2017

As a TED Senior Fellow I have the opportunity to attend four more TED conferences, including TED2017, TEDGlobal2017, TED2018 and one more unannounced meeting in 2019 sometime. This year TEDGlobal2017 took place in Arusha, Tanzania and marked an important point in TED history - it was 10 years ago that the first TED in Africa took place (TEDGlobal2007).

 

A few weeks ago, I returned from my first trip to Africa. My wife and I travelled out to Tanzania a few weeks before TED in order to tour around the country. After arriving in Arusha, we set out on an 8-day safari through Tarangire National Park, Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater and Conservation Area. It was a remarkable experience in which we saw thousands of animals experiencing birth, life, death and everything in between. I came home with ~6000 pictures and its been really difficult choosing and posting them on social. In fact I started hearing from some annoyed followers on Twitter.

I tried to grab a few pictures and assemble a little gallery if you really want to see some lions.

By far, one of the most interesting experiences I had while on safari was our vehicle breaking down. One of our rear springs broke while driving along a road - and I'm using the term "road" loosely here as they were basically just dirt tracks through the bush. We were a thousand or more kilometres from any town. Our driver knew of a nearby “garage” which magically appeared out of nowhere, like a mirage. It was all so convenient that I wasn’t sure if this whole thing was planned. Here, with the help of some basic tools, scrap metal and some sweat the spring was repaired and we limped our way through the park to our next campsite. What impressed me most was the “make it work” attitude that I often found in most of the local people I came across. Tanzanians have some serious hacking street smarts and I saw one innovation after another in the wild, villages and cities all across the country.

Anyway, after 8 days in the bush, it was time to relax on a beach so we visited the island of Zanzibar where I dreamt of setting up a beach lab.

Site of my future beach lab (Paje, Zanzibar).

 

After a few days relaxing it was time to spend 10 days just outside of Arusha National Park at TED Global. As a TED Fellow, we spend 3-4 days doing pre-conference Fellows-only activities (ie. stressing out about giving talks, eating too much, staying up too late, going on safari and generally conspiring with brilliant people on new projects, etc.) followed by the actual TED conference that usually lasts another 4-5 days. One of the highlights was finally meeting the new class of TED Fellows in person. You can read some nice summaries of their work and TED talks here and here. For me, the two talks which really got my attention  at this year's conference (apart form the Fellows' talks of course) came from Kamau Gachigi who founded Gearbox (Kenya's first open makerspace for rapid prototyping) and Keller Runaudo who is the CEO of Zipline (a company delivering blood products by super cool drones. Both talks highlighted some of incredible people and innovations being developed in Africa. After the conference I flew back to Canada very tired and looking forward to spending a few weeks at home before hitting the road once again (Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Paris, San Diego, Toronto, Cape Breton trips all coming up in the fall).

(L to R): Marine biologist + science advocate Mike Gil, Performance artist + activist Katlego Kolanyane-Kesupile and Fashion designer + artist Walé Oyéjidé (all new 2017 TED Fellows), myself and Artist + designer Sarah Sandman (we're both part of this year's TED Senior Fellows class). Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

 

All the TED Fellows present at TEDGlobal2017! Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

 

 

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