On 26 October 2019, the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Houston hosted TEDxSugarLand for the fourth consecutive year. In keeping with the general theme of celebrations across the greater Houston area this year, marking the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, the theme of TEDxSugarLand 2019 was One Small Idea, One Giant Leap for Mankind.

In his opening remarks to the attendees, Irfan Ali, Honorary Secretary of the Ismaili Council for the Southwestern United States, explained that the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Houston was built to be a place for cultural awareness and knowledge exchange. The importance of the principles of intellectual curiosity and knowledge-sharing are perhaps best conveyed in a speech made by Mawlana Hazar Imam in 2015, in which he said “Our history, our interpretation of our faith, is anchored in the intellect and we rejoice in investing in the human intellect. It’s part of the ethics of what we believe in and it’s part of what we believe distinguishes us, obviously, from the environment in which we live.”

This year’s TEDxSugarLand event featured twelve speakers – including professors, researchers, business leaders, and authors – covering topics from clean energy storage solutions and space medicine, to evolving cancer care and the human element of artificial intelligence, to name a few.

Tackling the ongoing issues of fossil fuels and energy consumption, Dr Ben Jawdat offered remarkable insights into the development of a high-efficiency kinetic energy storage system - the ability to harness solar and wind energy which can effectively be stored and used later. The innovative solution of using superconducting magnets within flywheel mechanism systems to reduce inefficiency presents a plausible energy solution for the future.

Dr Holly Hutchins from the University of Houston discussed how many individuals can suffer from a series of thinking errors resulting is what is referred to as imposter syndrome, the feeling that you are not qualified for the professional position you occupy. She explained how it is necessary to cope with these feelings and how they can be challenged and reframed for positive outcomes.

Debbie Elder offered insight into how to setup up children for success with effective retained learning. Her solution to the problem of lifelong learning is the ability to create love for classroom education. If a child is to succeed, then a solid foundation is required in reading, writing, and math skills. With a strong foundation in these principal skillsets, a child will be a great lifelong learner and successful citizen.

A cancer survivor, Cort Davies shared an inspirational story on his own battle with the disease and spoke on the research and studies of stress being linked to cancer, known as Sociogenomics.

Attendee Moes Nasser found the session to be “intellectually stimulating, great learning, and lots to ponder on and implement,” while Sonia Rash was impressed by, “the line-up of speakers - they were innovative and motivating.”

During the event, attendees were able to use breaks to discuss the talks with each other and to participate in engaging activities, such as giving individuals a happiness score in real-time through the use of cutting-edge facial recognition software and experiencing the music of the Strake Jesuit Orchestra. Jamatkhana tours were offered for participants to learn about the venue and its history.

The diverse group of attendees came together to take a deep dive into discussions of how to stimulate change across our communities and to contribute to the overarching goals of spreading ideas. Engaging the audience in this dialogue and through the scholarly presentations, TEDxSugarLand has demonstrated it shares a commonality and vision that has been set for the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Houston to foster intellectual curiosity and knowledge-sharing.

Learn more about TEDxSugarLand and view the videos from the 2019 event here.