The 2014 Ashland Innovators Conference went under way on Friday, April 11 in the Rogue River Room at SOU. Outside the event there were booths with students displaying their works from various EMDA classes. The atmosphere was one of anticipation and excitement with participants waiting to see what new things were coming for Ashland.
“This was beyond expectation” said Bobby Arellano, professor and Director of the Center for Emerging Media and Digital Arts. “It turned out fantastic, we are sold out.”
This year’s conference blew expectations out of the water when compared to last year’s that still had tickets left over at the end of the event. Ashland has previously been awarded the eCity award from Google, marking Ashland as the digital capital of Oregon for its innovation.
Jim Teece was the MC of the conference. Teece has spearheaded many different projects including the Ashland Fiber Network and Project A.
Also at the conference were SOU President Mary Cullinan, Ashland High School Principal Michelle Zundel, Jelly Helm of Studio Jelly, Gary Kout of SOFaT, Dana Greaves from Vortx, Inc, John Lee from Folium Partners, Inc and many more. Many of these guests are innovators that had gotten their start in Ashland or in Oregon.
Zundel was the first to speak, recounting how after a trip to China she realized that the public school system in Ashland was flawed by not properly cultivating creativity and innovation. She decided to change that by creating the first Evolving Education Summit, which created a way for students, parents and teachers to come together to inspire this creativity and innovation within students. Zundel set it up so key people would be near each other to help spark this change, and now every year juniors have a chance to sit down with local employers and apply for internships.
Helm was one of the individuals happy to see opportunities for innovation within schools, such as the project Zundel has worked on.
“Creative people are people who can hold tension really well,” said Helm.
“Just stay out of the way and let students do the awesome things,” said Arellano, speaking alongside Helms.
Similar stories by other speakers followed Zundel, conveying how these individuals have worked to change the community for the better. Also, a common theme throughout the conference was failure, and how failure should be seen as an opportunity for learning.
The Artists’ Alley in front of the conference, displayed some of the projects students have been working on. Vaughn Swanson showed off his work with music that he composed, along with a flash game that he helped to create. David Daniels showed a prototype of an augmented reality application that he is working on.
In the community, innovation is happening and this conference is a place where these innovators are able to meet. The attendees at the conference got to see what is coming next in the community as well as where they themselves can further innovation.