Peter Thum

“You can turn your dreams into reality. Even if you don’t know what you want to do, your dream is out there.”

We keep the speaker coverage moving with Peter Thum. He begins by building on the epiphany theme. When he was younger, he thought he would be a doctor after his father passed away but after graduating college, his life began to look a little different. He wanted to be where the world was changing so he moved to Berlin right after the wall came down. He spent the next couple of years learning German and traveling the world.

His journey eventually led him to South Africa. He found several people who were living without clean water and he knew that he had to help.

But he had a decision to make. Leave his job and listen to his heart or to his friends and stay within a safety net. You can guess which road he took. Out of an idea, Peter founded Ethos™ Water which was purchased by Starbucks in 2005. With a successful project impacting one area, Peter turned his focus to answer another question. What could he do to break down the arms race?

He found out that once you learn how to utilize your passion, you can apply it anywhere. He turned his passion for Ethos into Fonderie 47.

Two years ago, Peter and his business partner John Zapolski, took a trip to parts of Africa to research what it was like to be in a war zone. From warfronts to UN peace keeping patrols, they were immersed in a lifestyle so drastically different from our own. They interviewed men, women and children who suffered devastating tragedies during wartimes. Even after conflicts, these guns are valuable pieces. They are stockpiled and sold back out into the marketplace creating a deadly cycle but then Peter and John stepped in.

Together they came up with Fonderie 47. The company takes AK-47s from Africa, destroys them and turns them into beautiful pieces of jewelry and hardware.  Profits are funneled back into the countries to stimulate their economies in a positive way.

Foundrie 47’s mission is to take these guns off the street – lowering the supply. Anyone can argue that no matter how many guns you destroy there are always more guns out there. But the truth is, it costs more to replace them than it does to break it down to make something beautiful. Fonderie 47’s work has destroyed more than 6,000 weapons.

“We are trying to disrupt the way people think about this problem,” says Thum and he wants the audience to think of their passions in the same way. I’m personally excited about exploring what Fonderie 47 has to offer.

Scott Douglas

Introduced by 6th grader Ryder from Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, Scott Douglas is all about music. As an SMU professor and music enthusiast he’s explored every area of his passion. Fifteen years ago, he developed a successful procedure to actively cancel sound in a room.  He is even a co-author of an engineering textbook for the Infinity Project.

He wants to convince the audience that there is a strong connection between music, math, science and engineering. Mathematicians actually created the western musical scale. Douglas has used math to develop his own technique for selecting and recording individual voices in a crowd setting.

Douglas brought a variety of instruments to demonstrate how music can be manipulated and created for a specific purpose. We were able to see just how artists like T-Pain cut and paste sound to make music with pitch-corrected devices.

What is the future of music technology? It is the devices we carry around with us every day. Cell phones, tablets, even cameras that allow us to record, create and playback music as we see fit. Music is a vehicle of creativity for anyone. So go out and make some music!

Vladimir Jovanovic

Did you ever wonder how your parents always knew what you were doing when you were standing behind them? It was like a parental sixth sense that gave them eyes in the back of their head. I’m not sure if Vladimir Jovanovic is trying to level the playing field with his invention but you won’t have to turn your head to know it’s coming.

As a Computer Science and Psychology major at Southern Methodist University, Vladimir has created a prototype to put eyes in the back of your head. This backpack device, named Metis after the Greek goddess of wisdom uses the motion sensors on the Kinect to track movement.

The device tracks objects within an eight foot range and sends vibrations to your neck to signal what direction the object is moving. Not only do you know if you’re being followed but you also gives you depth perception.

But this more than just a play toy. Jovanovic can see this as a very useful tool for the military and public officers. They could use it on operations to monitor enemy movements and even keep track of team members.

Pedestrian, motorcyclists and even for the elderly to alert them to oncoming objects and help them avoid collisions. Although, he admits it’s a bit large now, Jovanovic is working on making it smaller and more discrete. What will probably be an exclusive sneak peak, the kids were able to test out Metis on the ninth floor of the Wyly Theater. If I have to say so myself, it’s pretty darn cool.

Sharon & Sam Blumberg

Sam Blumberg is the youngest speaker at TEDxSMU this year but his message is one that at any age is important to pay attention. After last year’s tsunami in Japan, Sam knew he had to do his part to help. He gained the support of his third grade class to create bracelets that they sold. His class raised and donated more than $1,000 to support the recovery cause. Sam sat down and thought about how he turned his idea into an active movement. Sam’s talk is about taking the right steps when formulating an idea.

Here are his guidelines to creating an working idea.

  1. Think it through.
  2. Don’t give up on your idea.
  3. Take action on your idea.
  4. Your idea should affect others in a good way.
  5. Share your ideas with others. If your idea is successful, many people’s lives will be changed.

After Sam finishes, he introduces his mom who has also turned those steps into a movement of her own.

We live for choices and crave variety but could this apply to everything? Sharon thinks so. Her daughter, Ayla, always wears two different shoes. If you were to ask her why, she would simply say because I like it. Her daughter’s unique individuality inspired Sharon and she saw an opportunity in her confidence. From there, CHOOZE shoes was born.

CHOOZE (transitive verb): To make a choice that makes a difference.

To add onto Sam’s talk, Sharon believes you need 2 things in order for ideas to grow: creativity and confidence. Not knowing much about the shoe business, she took a giant leap of faith, bought a dozen pair of white shoes and began making designs. When she didn’t know how to move her idea forward, she asked questions and researched to find out. She was on a mission to change to the world.

Each shoe matches but the left is never the same as the right. “We have two different feet, should we have two different shoes,” asks Sharon. It’s hard to argue with that.

CHOOZE is more than making a choice to be different. Profits from the sale of their shoes are used to microfinance loans for women in poverty so they can start own their business. Once the businesses take off, the loans are repaid and CHOOZE begins the cycle again with new shoes. Sharon has developed a business model that gives people the opportunity to choose to be different and make a difference.

To end their TEDxSMU talk, Sharon and Sam announce that CHOOZE is launching a new campaign. They are accepting design submissions for a new line of shoes in partnership with Soles4Souls. Chosen designs will have the creator’s message of hope along with each pair and will be distributed worldwide. But you have to remember to submit two designs, one for each shoe.

Follow the shoes on Twitter at @choozeshoes.