Thursday night, a large, painted cube sat in the Diag and invited passersby to chalk their answers to questions such as: “What is a mystery that can’t be solved?” The cube, along with hot chocolate, donuts and glow sticks were featured for the reveal of TedxUofM’s 2018 conference theme: “Black Box.”

While the speakers have yet to be announced, eight University of Michigan affiliates will present talks in February, all centered around the idea of “Black Box.” Kinesiology senior Jackie Katz, co-director of the conference, said selecting a theme was a lengthy process.

“We chose ‘Black Box’ this year kind of with the idea of when you know the input and you know the output, but you don’t know what’s happening on the inside,” Katz said. “It’s like a mystery that needs to be solved, kind of like unknown. Also, the black box is a term for the recording device in an airplane, so it holds the secrets.”

TedxUofM aims to select an inclusive theme that will work for a variety of speakers and strive to find a concept that will excite their audience. Business sophomore Neil Desai, attendees lead co-director, said he was impressed with the reaction within the membership to this year’s selection.

“Black Box is kind of unique because someone shouted it out at one of our meetings, and right away, the immediate reaction was like ‘ooh, wow,’ and everyone just started talking,” Desai said. “That’s the biggest thing, we want people to be talking about this theme.”

Engineering senior Umang Lathia, TedxUofM speaker coach, said members research and try to select speakers with original content from a variety of fields.

“We hope that anyone we’re choosing is doing things that are more pushing the barrier than things that are more typical, so we try to find speakers that are doing pushing-edge things,” Lathia said.

Due to the diversity of speeches, Katz believes the conference will inspire new dialogues among University community members.

“All the speakers are affiliated with the University whether it’s professor, alumni, student,” Katz said. “It’s cool to get people from the U of M community together sharing ideas. I think people are all so interested and keep coming back because the conversation it starts with other students in the community.”

Though the obvious draw to the conference is the speakers, the attendees team creates audience-participation activities to break up the four-hour-long event. Desai, who helps create these components, said a substantial part of the conference experience is interacting with other audience members.

“Everyone that goes to the conference is always passionate,” Desai said. “You have the option to livestream it, so the people that do decide to go are obviously really passionate about Ted talks and learning something new.”

According to Lathia, curious and ambitious people often attend the annual conference, and the resulting conversations are refreshing.

“People get excited about things and I think that makes such cool conversation because you’re not talking to people about their school or their major, what’s on their daily mind,” Lathia said. “You’re talking to them about their big ideas and what they want to change and what they’re inspired by and what they actually want to do with their life.”

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