Dhruvik Parikh makes his TED talk on renewable energy Saturday afternoon at the Kamiak High School Performance Art Center in Mukilteo. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Dhruvik Parikh makes his TED talk on renewable energy Saturday afternoon at the Kamiak High School Performance Art Center in Mukilteo. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Annual TEDx talks offer education, inspiration

The 11 participants this year included a former astronaut and a high school senior.

MUKILTEO — Attending a TEDx event is like dropping into a college lecture hall for a day — an opportunity for participants to hear new ideas and challenge their assumptions.

On Saturday afternoon, some 250 people came to Kamiak High School for the county’s third TEDxSnoIsleLibraries event. This year’s theme was “Sharing Our Future.”

The event’s 11 speakers included former astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Bill Bernat, a mental health advocate who used comedy to help underscore his message, Zsofia Pasztor, a Hungarian immigrant who leads Farmer Frog, a school garden movement in Snohomish County, and Dhruvik Parikh, a Jackson High School senior who discussed his research into renewable energy.

Metcalf-Lindenburger said that people thinking of trying something new, such as launching a business, might consider the way astronauts prepare for a mission as a model. They train in realistic environments and see what works, and what doesn’t.

In 2012, she participated in mission to help anticipate the problems astronauts would face in a future mission to land on — and take samples from — an asteroid.

She lived in an underwater laboratory off the Florida coast, 62 feet below the ocean’s surface. Participants used the marine environment to simulate space walks.

People can use a similar modeling process to test out ideas of their own, she said. As one example, anyone thinking of opening a restaurant might first consider catering four back-to-back parties, she said.

The audience responded with applause, cheers and a standing ovation to 16-year-old Kamiak High School student Sargun Handa.

She spoke of her emotional battles after being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease at age 10. Handa said having the chronic disease not only changed her life, but pushed her “into a pit of depression.”

Participating in high school service clubs helped her find happiness by “putting myself in the service of others,” she said. “I didn’t have the time to focus on being sick.”

She became friends with a fellow student who had moved to the area from Canada.

On Sept. 18, 2016, the onset of her sophomore year, her father told her that a fellow student had died. It wasn’t until later she learned that it was her friend, battling mental illness, who had had taken her life.

Handa reminded the audience that there might be people attending the event who were struggling with depression. “We all feel alone and afraid,” she said. “Social media hides that, it gives a false sense of connection.”

Community service helped her cope with the loss of her friend, Handa said. “Everyone feels pain,” she said. “Let volunteering heal you, too.”

Lilith Sorensen, a junior who attends high school in Yelm, attended the event with her parents and grandmother.

She said she had watched TEDx presentations online but this was the first TEDx event she had attended. She said she “came to learn more about certain subjects I’m not fully aware of.”

Joan Litzkow, of Snohomish, said as someone who has just retired after a 31-year career teaching in the Everett School District, she considers herself a lifelong learner and that’s the reason she attended the event.

“I want to take more advantage of what Sno-Isle has to offer,” she said.

People could also watch Saturday’s event live at public viewing sites at Coupeville, Darrington, Edmonds, Granite Falls, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mukilteo, Snohomish and Camano Island.

About 1,100 people participated in the TEDx event, either on-site in Mukilteo or at the viewing sites, said Jim Hills, a Sno-Isle Libraries spokesman.

There were online viewers from 29 states and 18 countries, he said.

All of Saturday’s TEDx talks will be videotaped and posted online at www.sno-isle.org/tedx.

Saturday’s event marked the third consecutive year that a local TEDx event has been scheduled in Snohomish County. The previous two events were held at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

The TEDx event is an offshoot of the TED talks, events that began in 1984 to discuss technology, entertainment and design. They have since grown to 2,500 international events on a broader list of topics.

TEDx events were launched on the theme “ideas worth spreading,” to allow people to have a similar events in their own communities.

The TEDx event in Mukilteo was one of 50 such events held Saturday across the United States and internationally, in counties including Thailand, India, the United Arab Emirates. Laos, Morocco and Croatia.

Saturday’s TEDxSnoIsleLibraries event was sponsored by The Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation, Community Transit, Whole Foods Market, Edmonds Community College, Everett Community College, the Snohomish Health District, Washington State University North Puget Sound at Everett, The Daily Herald, KSER, the Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce and OverDrive.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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