x= independently organized TED event

Breaking The Mold

About "Breaking the Mold"

Breaking the Mold” embraces the innovative spirit of the City of Akron and The University of Akron and is dedicated to having a healthy disregard for the impossible and not using the past as an excuse for the future.


"Breaking the Mold" means to make a change that breaks an established habit or pattern; to do something differently, after it has been done in the same way for a long time; One is that someone is doing something very unconventional, breaking out of the mold in a sense, or breaking the mold because he or she is acting so inconsistently; another meaning in the sense that they broke the mold when they made someone, in the sense that he or she is unique.


So... in the spirit of TED and the concept of "Breaking the Mold", our TEDx Organization aims to host our next TEDx event with the spotlight on those brave enough to break the mold. Why? Because these are the people that challenge social norms, and drive innovation and creation to their true potential.



Andrew Thomas:

Who Are You Innovating For?

Abstract: Many educators, designers, government officials, and corporate leaders believe that enhancing innovation is the best path for staying competitive in a globalized economy. Yet, far more than half of all new products and services will ultimately fail.  Why the high failure rate? Much of it surrounds the inability to recognize who the innovation is really for.


Bio: Andrew R. Thomas is the bestselling author of 19 books- including, most recently, THE CUSTOMER TRAP: HOW TO AVOID THE BIGGEST MISTAKE IN BUSINESS. A successful entrepreneur, he has traveled to and conducted business in more than 120 countries on all seven continents. Dr. Thomas is Contributing Editor at Industry Week; and, Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business at the University of Akron.

Emily Kennedy

From a Burning River To Biomimicry

Abstract: Biomimicry is innovation through emulation of biological forms, processes, patterns, and systems; think Velcro, a non-toxic adhesive inspired by how burrs stick to animal fur. The University of Akron provides first-of-its-kind, graduate-level training in this emergent field through the Biomimicry Fellowship Program, now in its fourth year. In this talk, Emily Kennedy, a member of the inaugural cohort of Biomimicry Fellows, describes her unique educational experience, including how introducing biomimicry at her industrial sponsor has galvanized sustainable consumer product innovation.


Bio: Emily Kennedy is a Biomimicry Fellow in the Integrated Bioscience PhD Program at the University of Akron. Her graduate studies are sponsored by GOJO Industries, the inventor of PURELL® Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer.  Emily works part-time in the GOJO R&D department, training innovators to explore biology as a source of creative inspiration and model for sustainability.


Hazel Barton

The Life (and Death) of Exploration

Abstract: Exploration and the desire to explore has been one of the defining characteristics of our species, the results of which have changed the nature of the world around us.  In our modern world exploration needs increasing justification, while technology is changing the demographics of those who explore.  What is to be gained or lost through exploration, and what will the next generation of explorers look like?


Bio: Dr. Hazel A. Barton is a Professor of Biology and Geosciences at the University of Akron and an avid cave explorer, having explored caves on five continents.  She is a past director of the National Speleological Society and an award winning cave cartographer. Her research has been featured in numerous publications, including Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Outside, Popular Mechanics and Wired, as well as the IMAX movie Journey into Amazing Caves.  Dr. Barton is currently a Fellow of the National Speleological Society, a Kavli Fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

Holly Pilcavage

Saving Lives Through Story

Abstract: When we choose not to share our stories with the people around us, those stories end up dying with us. We are the authors of our own stories in a technology-driven world and, with that being said, not every person wants to get up in front of a room or even sit across from one person and orally iterate important pieces of their life. Just as there are different types of learners, there are also different types of storytellers. Although, telling even one small portion of our own story might be the hardest thing we do in our lifetime, but it also might be the one thing that truly saves ourselves.


Bio: Holly is the Founder of Project Wednesday, a weekly inspirational message to participants across the nation.  She is a professional speaker with ForCollegeForLife, has held multiple positions in higher education, specifically in Student Affairs, and is an aspiring Life Coach. Her passion is people, which fuels everything in which she engages. Holly travels as much as possible to learn more about people and how we all fit together as individual puzzle pieces creating the bigger picture we often refer to as the world.



Hugues Bastien

Cultivating Hope in Haiti

Abstract: Positive and necessary social change is paramount to improving lives and life situations; it fosters hope and provides incentives leading to success.


Bio:  Hugues Bastien is a native Haitian who emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 15.  He earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering  from City College of New York.   Through deep, genuine, almost gut-wrenching urgency to improve conditions for fellow Haitians, Hugues returned to his home village in 1994 and founded Institution Univers and Coalition of Children in Need Association.  These organizations were created to guide and teach Haitians how to better their own stations in life through education and acquisition of practical working skills. In 2013, Hugues was named the Entrepreneur of the Year in Education in Haiti.


He has built a school for children and one for adult education; he planned and built a medical clinic to service a population of 150,000; he has added housing for professionals who have moved into the area; he planned and implemented a working agricultural farm which now provides food for 2,700 students and staff; the village now has a bakery which provides jobs and bread to feed the hungry; and the latest addition to this insular community is a barber shop.  Hugues has created many win-win situations, providing jobs, bi-products and emotional stability and pride.


Madison Hexter

Let’s Cross-Talk: The Dichotomy of Success

Abstract: In our world, success is often considered the result of a singular, exclusive pursuit of one field. We spend our energy focusing on improving and engaging a small fraction of our conscious mind. However, does focusing on one field actually grow our potential in that field — or does it limit it? Scientist and dancer Madison Hexter discusses how cross-talk and collaboration between all areas of our brain and also across fields gives us the best chance for success.


Bio: Madison Hexter is in her senior year here at the University of Akron, and she's majoring in Biology with Minors in Chemistry and Dance. When she's not in class, she works on campus with Student Academic Success as the Learning Assistant (LA) for Organic Chemistry and is an undergraduate research assistant in Biochemistry. She enjoys volunteering in the Ehko Middle School Ministry at The Chapel, cooking, ice cream, working out, skiing, hiking, and ice skating


Mark Krohn

What If...

Abstract: We live in a world where anything is possible, but with so many possibilities how do we find what matters to us, how do we identify our dreams and how do we get started?  In this talk, we will explore the magical question - “What if?” - and how asking that question can help us look at things in a much different way, inspire action, ensure achievement, transform our lives and help us find our core.


Bio: Mark dedicates his life to helping others.  In doing so, commitment, creativity, passion, and an aversion to the words “no” and “cant” define him and are at the heart of all he does. Mark specializes in making the complex simple, creating action plans that allow people to achieve things that are deemed impossible and realize and accomplish their dreams.

Troy Haslinger

The Power of Escape

Abstract: Could an “escape” be a new prescription for cancer? Imagine you were an adult with terminal cancer and had something to give you renewed strength beyond the daily battle? Too often, medical oncology looks at only positive outcomes in terms of remission or a cure, yet terminal cancer patients face the reality of a drastically limited life. What are the positive outcomes associated with an escape? How would you escape cancer? How are escapes important to our lives in general?


Bio: Troy is the Founder and Board Chairman of Life Is Good No Matter What. The mission of LIGNMW is to grant adults with advanced cancer and their loved ones an escape from their battle through a cherished experience. Troy founded the charity in his sister Holly's honor because of what he witnessed her go through personally with cancer. Holly passed away from cancer at the age of 39, never getting an escape from her battle. Troy also is an Account Executive at Foundation Medicine where he promotes the utilization of a fully comprehensive genomic profile assay to find the genomic drivers of cancer. Troy is a Father of two amazing boys Sam and Max and is soon to be married to Dawn who makes him want to be a better person everyday and her three awesome kids Jordan, Audrey and Noah - The Brady Bunch.

Chase Eagleson


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Logan Black


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Jeff Hoffman

The Co-Founder of

Will be this year's event emcee

Jeff Hoffman is a successful entrepreneur, proven CEO, worldwide motivational speaker, Hollywood film producer, and a producer of a Grammy winning jazz album in 2015.  In his career, he has been the founder of multiple startups, he has been the CEO of both public and private companies, and he has served as a senior executive in many capacities.   Jeff has been part of a number of well-known companies, including, CTI, ColorJar, and more.


Today Jeff serves on the boards of companies in the US, Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia.  He supports entrepreneurs and small businesses on a worldwide basis, serving on the global board of directors of Global Entrepreneurship Week (supporting entrepreneurship in over 130 countries), the US State Department’s GIST program (Global Innovation through Science and Technology, working in 49 emerging nations), the APEC Startup Initiative (the Asia Pacific Economic Council’s 21-member nation association), and many others.  He supports the White House, the State Department, the United Nations, and similar organizations internationally on economic growth initiatives and entrepreneurship programs.

Jeff is a frequent keynote speaker, having been invited to speak in over 50 countries.  He speaks on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and business leadership, and is the author of the book SCALE, a how-to guide for growing your business.  Jeff also teaches innovation workshops to major corporations on a regular basis.


Jeff is a featured business expert seen on Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, CNN International, Bloomberg News, CNBC, ABC, and NPR, and in publications including Forbes, Inc., Time, Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, and more.

Jeff received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the national CEO council for his contributions to the field of entrepreneurship, and he received the Champion of Entrepreneurship Award from JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, and Rising Tide Capital, as well as receiving the George Brown Award for International Cooperation.


Outside of the world of technology, Jeff has produced movies in Hollywood, has produced musical events including concerts, tours, and charity events with such artists as Elton John, Britney Spears, NSYNC, and others, and serves on numerous charity and non-profit boards.


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© 2015 Tedx - University of Akron