I had the amazing opportunity to join the PopTech conference this past week. On PopTech’s “about” page, its mission is well stated: “PopTech brings together a global community of innovators from many fields to share insights and work together to create lasting change.” Health experts, technologists, designers, artists, etc. come together and present their great ideas and findings.
Last year I was signed up to volunteer, but at the time of the conference I was really sick, and had just gotten out the hospital and rehabilitation center. When I emailed volunteer coordinator Mary Alexander about my being too weak to help out, she responded by telling me that they’ve been following Brent’s blog. She said he has been so good to PopTech and so great to have, they’d like to offer me a ticket to attend the conference. Then this year when I’m 100% again, they can schedule me as a volunteer.
I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to attend! In the past I have watched the PopTech videos online, and Brent has shared with me how amazing the people and presenters are, as he gets to interact with almost every one of them while he helps them prepare their slides (he’s worked in the A/V Crew the past several years). It was so awesome watching and listening to the presenters share their ideas and their talents, and meeting and interacting with such great individuals!
This year I was feeling much better, and I’m not walking around in a neck brace. Thus, I was able to volunteer. I’m so glad I did! Fred, the volunteer manager who I’ve know for years, was wonderful. Most all of my volunteer time was spent in the Welcome Lounge in Registration. I met and worked with so many wonderful, enthusiastic people. I loved the camaraderie. Everyone working and attending was there because they truly wanted to be there, and had a love for PopTech and its cause. I met a lot of interesting people because all attendees and presenters had to come to registration to pick up their badges.
The first two days were filled with presentations by speakers, performers, and science and social innovation fellows. I was able to watch most of them, both in the opera house balcony, and while I was working in registration (there was a big screen where we could view the filming). I appreciated the variety of topics and enjoyed the comic relief amidst the inspiring and more serious presentations. Founder of Improv Everywhere, Charlie Todd, gave a very funny presentation. I recognized many of his video pranks, as I am a big fan. Before his presentation, his wife Cody Linquist came on the stage as a fake speaker. She very obviously was lip syncing her lines, and then became flustered when she appeared to cough when it sounded as though she was still talking. Her slides appeared to be out of order, and she admitted that she wasn’t very prepared. It didn’t take long before people began laughing when they realized it was a joke.
While I was working in registration, a woman approached me at the desk to share with us her impression of one of the presenters, famous skateboarder Rodney Mullen. He invented numerous skateboarding tricks such as the flatground ollie, kickflip, heelflip, impossible, and 360-flip. Apparently there was a crowd of teenage boys standing outside the Opera House with their skateboards waiting for Rodney to come out so they could meet him. He came out and hung out and talked with them for a long time. This woman thought it was so nice of him. One of the boys was her son, and he idolized Rodney. She thought it was great that her son’s role model was so approachable and happy to spend time with a bunch of kids he didn’t know.
During breaks we could walk around the beautiful town of Camden. After her presentation, artist Shantell Martin was drawing in one of the screening rooms. I walked up to her and asked her to draw on my arm. I love her perception, and her positive outlook. Before her fascinating talk about making cheese from human foot bacteria, I briefly spoke with microbiologist Christina Agapakis. She’s incredibly smart, and cute too. :-)
On Friday night after checking people into the “soiree” at the Owlshead Transportation Museum, I joined the party. It was magnificently done, as always, catered with delicious food and drinks. There was a hula corner (same as last year) where we could test our skill at hula-hooping. After several tries, I finally got the hang of it! Now I’m a pro. ;-) At the party I had the pleasure of interacting with several of the speakers/performers I had been wanting to meet They were all very approachable.
Photographer Adam Magyar was very kind and genuine. In his presentation he shared his slow-motion photographs, examining individuals in the urban crowd. Brent introduced me to Jim Olson, an oncologist, who received a standing ovation for his talk. He invented a tumor paint that locates and lights up tumor cells to show surgeons exactly what to excise. Obviously this interested me greatly, and he wished me the best in my battle with cancer when I spoke with him.
Brent and I approached Charlie Todd and his wife, complimenting them on their hilarious presentations. They were very nice and laid back. Finally, I was fortunate enough to meet the great skateboarder Rodney Mullen. I told him about the woman who approached me in Registration, very impressed with him. Rodney was so appreciative, kind, and humble. He said, “I’m just one of them.” He grabbed my hand firmly, saying what a pleasure it was to meet me. What a great guy! The next day he met with his fans at Camden Skate Park.
On Saturday participants had the option of signing up for one of five different activities lasting 3-4 hours. My volunteer task was to supervise and take photos of the group of people going to the Maine Media Center Workshop for a lesson in “19th Century Instagram.” Brenton Hamilton showed us how to transform our iPhone images with a historical photographic process known as “Kallitype.” I wasn’t expecting to join in, but Brenton invited me to participate. It was a lot of fun, and very interesting. Perhaps another blog post about it…
I loved being a part of such a positive and amazing event. I think everyone should have the opportunity to be uplifted, inspired, and edified by such intelligent, renowned, and innovative people. I am absolutely looking forward to next year!