Tag Archives: IgniteCLT

#IgniteCLT 4 Recap

21 Mar

Last night, I attended #IgniteCLT 4. The motto of IGNITE CHARLOTTE is: Enlighten us, but make it quick!

Ignite is an evening series of a small talks held at the Neighborhood Theater in Charlotte, NC. These talks are presented by community members, based on ideas they have about technology, education and government that are meant to enlighten and inspire the community to ignite themselves and take action. Each speaker is given 5 minutes and twenty slides that automatically advance. The speaker’s job is to convey their idea to the audience. The audience’s job to get enlighted, inspired, and ignited!

The morning of Ignite, I was very excited to attend. Having only been to a portion of #IgniteCLT 3 before, I really was looking forward to the possibilities for the evening. However, by lunchtime the pollen started getting to me. My enthusiasm for the evening was dwindling quickly.

So I started monitoring the twitter feed for #igniteCLT. I read so many tweets from others; new people, people I respect on twitter. I fed off of their enthusiasm; it persuaded me to RALLY!

And so I hopped on the #23 CATS bus and ventured over to NoDa. I arrived about 15 minutes before the icebreaker was to begin. So, I popped into Smelly Cat Cafe for a red eye for a jolt of caffeine to get me going.

I walked across the street, showed my ID to the doorman, and gave my ticket to the registration. I received my name badge and walked to the back of the room.

name badge

When I initially arrived, I recognized no one. I quickly became discouraged.

I stood there for a while and watched the folks participating in the icebreaker.

icebreaker 1  icebreaker 2  icebreaker 3 

The icebreaker was sponsored by Hackerspace Charlotte. A pretty cool place that I hope to one day check out in person. According to their website:

Hackerspace Charlotte is a location where people with common interests, usually in computers, technology, or digital or electronic art can meet, socialize and/or collaborate. Hackerspace Charlotte can be viewed as an open community lab incorporating elements of a machine shop, workshop and studio where hackers can come together to share resources and knowledge to build and make things.

As I stood on the sidelines, I had a few conversations with the folks around me. Now, I’m a bit shy IRL. So, having conversations with strangers is a real struggle for me; particularly since I also stutter on occasion. However, I truly did enjoy chatting with everyone around me. Their conversations enlightened and inspired me almost as much as the speakers!

I also recognized a few faces from twitter and had the pleasure of meeting them IRL. I had a few conversations, but it was time to start the show!

I sat down in the middle, about fourth row back. The overhead fan was on high and created a total wind tunnel in the center of the room. It was a fantastic feeling after being in a crowded room without A/C for over an hour, but not such a great situation for my hair.

I digress! 🙂

The show started. Bridget Sullivan, the founder/executive producer of Ignite Charlotte kicked off the evening.

In the beginning I attempted to live tweet this event, only to realize that my thumbs simply weren’t fast enough! So I pulled out my trusty notebook and pen (trusty, that is, until my pen ran out of ink!) I’ve done my very best to recap all of the speakers in their own words (so please forgive me in advance for the sentence fragments and mixture of tenses).

I hope you enjoy Ignite Charlotte 4 as much as I did!



Bridget Sullivan @sullybridgetb founder and executive producer of Ignite introduces #igniteclt 4.

Warren Cooksey @wcooksey presents the proclamation from the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners declaring March 21, 2012 Ignite Charlotte Day in Mecklenburg County.

@wcooksey presents proclamation to @sullybridgetb

MC: Larry Shaheen Jr @lawshaheenjr

Never stop learning.

Listen. Learn. Engage!


Phillip Zannini @Phillymac

Phillip teaches us how to speak geek. Applying Hippocrates’ four temperaments to communication, he demonstrates how to speak to each type of person.

1.       The Choleric – the in your face, tough, marketing type. This represents approximately 3% of the population.

  • How do you communicate with the choleric?

Be direct!

2.       The Sanguine – these are the party people! Pleasure seeking and social! These are your natural PR people.

  • How do you communicate with the sanguine?

Make sure they understand that they will have a good time. They will do anything if they know they will be having fun by the end of the task.

3.       The Phlegmatic – these are the Barry White’s in the crowd; smooth, suave and steady. They are quiet, but will engage in a conversation. When they speak, people listen. But they are also the type who, when asked “what do you want to do,” will say, “well, what do you want to do.”

  • How do you communicate with the Phlegmatic?

Be empathetic!

4.       The Melancholy – they are systematic, deep thinkers. They are very organized and detailed. They will be the ones who, when asked “do you want to go out tonight?” Respond by saying “no thanks, I have to organize my sock drawer.”

  • How do you communicate with the Melancholy?

Make it written.

Engage your mind.  Speak to your geek!

@lawshaheenjr they told me I have to stay inside my box. How many of you think I can do that?

Yeah, right!

How many of you are on twitter?

((Shameless plug for using the hashtag #igniteclt))

Think about how twitter, facebook and social media have changed how we communicate. How much social media helps us to step outside of our box; outside of our comfort zone and what we’re used to and engage with others?


Colby Foster @TheWorldToliver

We’re a fat, lazy society. Our society has taught us to be consumers. We are a nation of consumers. We’re mentally fat, physically fat. We keep consuming and we are never producing. We are the participation generation. We only have a relationship with the world through our thumbs.

While our grandparents’ generation walked uphill both ways in the snow, we grew up playing video games.

The challenge for our generation is to help mold the future generation – today! So, how can we do this?

1.       Don’t give your children all the answers

2.       Join a crossfit – crossfit is about winners and losers, and yes – there will be losers, but that will challenge you.

  • We come from “the participation generation,” where everyone received a prize and no one was left out – the participation award; everyone gets a ribbon!
  • But what did this teach us? Did it prepare us for the real world?
  • There are definite winners and losers in the real world, so let’s teach the next generation how to confront and embrace these situations.

3.       Parents, throw away the video games and spend time with your children!


@addykapur Addy Kapur

Addy shares his tips for surviving the transition from a safe job where you work for someone else, to stepping out of your comfort zone and start a company.

Jobs are like safety nets. We know we have a paycheck, but we’re still not happy.

Find your happiness! Start a company, be an entrepreneur!

So, how do you do this? You start a company.

But how do you start a company?

1.       Don’t try to balance two jobs

  • You’ll drive yourself crazy.

2.       Take the plunge!

  • It’s scary and it’s a long road.
  • Plan for the long haul

3.       Certain truths about starting your own company:

  • You will have NO money

Plan ahead; save money; have a nest egg; cut your expenses

  • You will doubt yourself

Be prepared for these moments.

How can you be prepared?

1.       Get on a ramen noodle diet

  • You’ll be eating a lot of these; trust me!

2.       Be Frugal

  • Stretch the dollar

3.       Don’t be afraid of surprises

4.       Be flexible and agile

  • Be ready to turn around
  • Change directions

5.       PERSEVERENCE – lots of it!

If you follow these steps, at the end you will find success.


Follow your dreams!

@lawshaheenjr Live the life you want to live!

We just heard about how to follow your dreams and live the life you want to live. There are ways to save and still live the life you want. Our next speaker will tell us how to live like a king on the budget of a peasant.


Kaitlyn Tokay @thefrugaldumpst

You may have heard of dumpster divers, people who eat for free living off of what other people throw out. While that is one way to live frugally, one that requires a very strong stomach, I’m here to tell you that you can still live frugally without having to dumpster dive.

So, how can you do this?


1.       Make a list; know where your money is going

2.       Cook at home

3.       When you travel; look at other options besides hotels

4.       Create meetings on the go

5.       Make sure you can afford your house

6.       Look at different options for transportation

  • Riding the bus is great, unless you’re afraid of sitting next to strangers.
  • If this is a problem for you, think about riding your bike. It’s a great way to burn calories and get around.

@lawshaheenjr one of the previous speakers told us about how we are one of the most obese generations. How many of you like to work out? How many of you work out 3 times a week. How many of you don’t work out at all? Our next speaker is going to tell us how he transitioned from being an out-of-shape nerd to running a half-marathon.


PJ Smith @pjsmith73

At 38 years old I weighed too much for my height. I knew it was time to make a change. A friend suggested asked me to run in the Thunder Road Half marathon. So, in a fit of insanity, I agreed. I had a goal.

As a nerd, I knew I wanted to use technology to track my training data. So I used a free app called run keeper. It was great for tracking my mileage and speed during my runs.

One time when I was traveling home to Ohio, I ran in the nearby park using the app. I completed my run only to return to my car and realize that somewhere along the run, I lost my key. While I was able to retrace my steps using this app, I never did find my key.

So, how can you start to run?

1.       Have a clear goal

  • My goal was to run Thunder Road
  • In order to do that, I had to train hard enough to be able to finish under 3 hours

2.       Have a good pair of running shoes

  • Go to your local running store, like Charlotte Running Company or Run for Your Life. There a running nerd will analyze your gate and recommend the best pair of running shoes for you.

3.       Wear Tech Tees

  • Regular cotton tees can chafe. Avoid chafe and get a tee that wicks away your sweat.

4.       Have a training plan

  • Mine was a 19 week plan that built up mileage in the beginning and tapered off the last few weeks before the big race

5.       Focus on your short races first

  • This will help you learn how to race and pace yourself

6.       Be flexible with your plan

  • Sometimes (just like my run in Ohio) unexpected events will happen.

7.       Stay motivated!

  • Play Jedi mind tricks on yourself. For me I would think about anything but running; let my mind wonder. By the time I stopped thinking about other things and remembered that I was running I had already gone another ¼ mile.
  • Use Inspiration Photos to keep you motivated
  • Use friends and coworkers to keep you accountable. When others asked me how the running was going, it kept it on my mind; it kept me accountable.

On race day:

1.       Don’t change anything in your routine

2.       Take time to take in the moment!

3.       Feed off of the energy around you

4.       Thank the volunteers, they keep you motivated.

@lawshaheenjr How many of you grew up listening to the backstreet boys? NSync? How about Justin Bieber? Our next speaker is going to tell us why if you hate Justin Bieber, Patriarchy wins.


Dr. Robin James @doctaj

I actually come from the generation of the New Kids on the Block myself. Tonight I’m here to explain why boy bands like New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys and Justin Bieber actually empower women.

I’m a philosopher, so naturally I like to take traditionally accepted views and norms and flip them on their head, challenging the traditional view. So, while most people would argue that boy bands are negative influences on girls, I am arguing that they are actually the opposite.

First, let’s talk about what is patriarchy. Patriarchic societies are those where the male has a dominant role in the decision-making and control.  A patriarchy is a social system in which the male gender role acts as the primary authority figure central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination.

Male musicians tend to ‘flex’ to other males in songs. It is there way of showing how they are better than another guy. It is the way that they show their dominance in our culture.

Ludacris raps about his woman. He uses his rap to tell other guys how awesome he is because he has an awesome woman. He’s showing off why his woman makes him better than all of the other guys.

Ludacris Needlepoint -what a stitch!

Photo Source: http://steotch.com

It is his way of showing his control and dominance.

You can also see this in female artists. For example: Brandy and Monica with “That boy is mine.”

Boy bands tend to get a bad rap. Many people are quick to dismiss, “no, I’m too good; too educated; too…for boy bands.” “They are for stupid people who like to follow.”

But before you dismiss the power of boy bands in empowering women, I challenge you to look at boy bands throughout history. In pop music culture, boy bands have traditionally brought together females. Girls form fan clubs, get together with their friends, make signs, they bond. They form a common bond over these bands; bands like Justin Bieber.

So before you dismiss boy bands, know that if you hate Justin Bieber, you are really saying yes to patriarchy – patriarchy wins.



Hackerspace Charlotte presents the winners from the icebreaker. She explains what hackerspace is and invites the crowd to join them until Midnight tonight at 1111 Hawthorne Ln. They’re also there every Friday night. So, come build something!



@sullybridgetb welcomes us back, tells us about the survey for ignite Charlotte. Votes during intermission will determine which charity the first ignite Charlotte charitable donation will go toward.

@lawshaheenjr opens up the session with the theme of part 2, the idea of giving back. He talks about how his younger brother @Anthony_Shaheen is his hero. His younger brother works for Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation. He takes his time to educate underprivileged inner-city youth and teach them about the world outside of the inner city. He teaches them about the outdoors. He had a pilot project with McClintoch Middle and recently was awarded a grant for $30,000 to carry this program to other CMS schools.

Larry encourages everyone to check out the Power To Give  campaign, where you can donate to his program, so that he can continue to teach underprivileged youth that there is more outside of the world that they know.

This year was a tough year for Larry, losing his grandfather, and so did the next speaker. J Richard Byrd tells us about the lessons he learned from his grandfather – lessons that have shaped him and will enlighten you.



@realsource J Richard Byrd

Tells us about the lessons he learned from his grandfather. Like a previous speaker touched on, he explains, my grandfather was from the generation where you walked uphill in the snow both ways; he came from the generation where you had to work hard.

I was blessed with the opportunity toward the end of his life to spend more time with my grandfather, as he came and lived with us. My grandfather was a funny man; he would say things that would surprise you.

One day, I came into the kitchen and he was doing dishes. I said grandpa, “You don’t have to do those.” He said:


“Boy, I didn’t come here to sit on my behind; I came here to help out.”


My grandfather taught me that you should contribute. Make sure you’re doing something with your life.


My grandfather used to look – all the time! We’d go on a drive; I’d say “grandpa, what you lookin’ at?” He’d respond:

“I’m just lookin’…that’s all – just lookin!”


One day I realized he was just taking it all in; the trees; the clouds; he was taking it all in. My grandfather taught me that you need to stop. Look. See the trees. Understand the beauty of what’s going on around you. To do this, you’ve got to take a moment; sit back and look at the trees.


Now my grandfather was a singer. He loved to sing. He taught me to keep singing, no matter what. He smoked 2.5 packs a day for about 50 years. One day he was in the hospital with double pneumonia that no one thought he would survive; he took off his oxygen mask and just started singing. It made me realize, no matter how sick you get, keep doing what it is you love. For him, he loved to sing.


He would sing all the time, even if he didn’t know the song. He’d listen to everything – even rap; he’d bop his head back and forth. If he didn’t know the words, he’d say:

“I don’t know the words to this song.” And he’d go on to sing “Watermelon. Watermelon.”


It just goes to show you, even if you don’t know the words, if you’re doing what you love, you’re going to enjoy it.


My grandfather also taught me to smile. Even in pain, my grandfather would smile. Toward the end of his life, we had nurses that would come by to help out. The nurse would tell me, I was having the worst day before I came over, your grandfather turned my day around; he’s always smiling!


My grandfather taught me that the most important thing to do is to make sure that other people are having a great day. Smile.


My grandfather was a great man, he taught me so many things before he passed, but what will stay with me are the lessons he shared:

1.       Work hard

2.       Live life

3.       Look at the trees

4.       Even if you don’t know what it is you are doing, JUMP IN anyhow, because if you don’t know the words, you can always pretend. Watermelon, Watermelon!


@lawsheenjr Wasn’t that a great story, let’s give it up again for  J Richard Byrd and his grandfather.


Alright, so what about when you can’t fix it? What do you do? You call engineer. The guy that fixes everything, right? Well our next speaker is here to tell us that we can fix it! She will explain how engineering is for the masses



Raquel Velez @rockbot most people believe that engineering is full of math, difficult equations, but I’m here to tell you engineering is for everyone!

Engineering is all about simple steps that whether you’re baking or building a robot you too can follow. Engineering follows the design process. This is a simple process.

1.       Identify your problem

  • Not the idea, but the problem
  • What’s my goal
  • What’s my end game

2.       Research and understand your problem

  • Read a book
  • Go online
  • Understand what you’re getting yourself into

3.       Design Phase

  • Once you understand your problem and you’ve done your research, it’s time to design.
  • Take your ideas
  • Draw it out

4.       Build Phase

  • Then it’s time to take your design and MAKE IT!
  • This is your chance to see your idea in real life.

5.       Test

  • Then you get to test your design
  • See if it works
  • But, what if it breaks? That’s OK, that’s where the break and Iterate Loop comes in
  • This is your “secret sauce” – you already have your research, it’s time to go back to the design and rethink your idea; build it test it; try it again.

6.       Failure

  • What if your design works, but then it fails?
  • Keep trying!
  • An engineer doesn’t fail unless they give up.


So, go out there and engineer something awesome!


@lawshaheenjr our next speaker is an expert tinkerer, constructor of all things and can be found engineering awesome things at Hackerspace Charlotte. He has one of the coolest accents; he’s welsh. Let’s bring him up here.



Redvers Davies @noidd


As a previous speaker told us, technology has turned us into a nation of consumers. We’re not buying technology, we’re really renting it. We always want the next pretty, shiny gadget and we’re throwing out the old ones.


How can we break this cycle?

  • We can tinker.
  • We can tell the next generation how to tinker.


What if I told you that within 3 weeks, you could build a small electronic device?

  • All designs are free and open.
  • Just ask the companies for their “free engineering samples.” They’ll give them to you FREE! Yes, I said FREE!


When I want something, I design it and build it.

When you build something with your hands you’re challenging assumptions.


Go create something.

Just go & do it – for yourself.



Antoine RJ Wright @arjwright


Remember that time when it was just you in your yard with your big wheel? Maybe it wasn’t you; maybe it was your neighbor that had one. Big wheels were the days where we had not a care in the world, the wind rushing through our hair, seeing the beauty in the world.


Whatever happened to the idea of coloring? Not just letting the pixels lie wherever, but “digital fingerpainting.”


  • Color something
  • Draw something
  • Create a new canvas
  • Start to draw
  • See the world differently


I started by going to coffee shops and just sketching what I saw. Unfortunately, the first time I went, I didn’t see much. It really wasn’t until a little kid came screaming by me that I saw that look in his eyes… it was his big wheel moment.


So, what’s your big wheel moment going to be?

What do you see?


  • See the colors of the world around you.
  • Life is more than black and white.
  • Add color to your life.


See the world for what it is – a big wheel!



@lawshaheenjr How many of you like politics? I know, it’s not something everyone wants to talk about, but for me, it’s my life. I stop B.S. on a constant basis.


Whether you like politics or not… without politics and governance, we wouldn’t function.


How many of you have heard about the Federalist Papers? Well they’re these famous documents, Federalist paper allegedly written by James Madison, under the pen name Publius. You know him, one of the founding fathers and writer of the constitution. Federalist Paper 51 talks about parties, arguing that partisan politics should be kept out of government. That the death of America would eventually come at the hands of partisanship.


Now, I could talk about this stuff all day, but let’s welcome our next speaker who’s going to talk about the coming death of political parties.



Dan Roselli @danielroselli

Tonight I’m going to talk about our political system and why it’s broken.


Looking at historic facts between elections, very little changes in party between elections. So, the idea in politics is this – you will your primary, you’ll win the general election.


How do you win your primary? You do what your party tells you to do.


There is danger in political partisanship, George Washington warned us about it, and it’s been there all along.


But, what if political parties weren’t allowed at all?


Democracy is entitled to earn, but it is not guaranteed.


Did you know that we do not currently elect our president? But our president is elected by the Electoral College.


((Explains difference between Electoral College and popular vote)).


So, who is really in charge here? We the people! It says it right here – at the top.

So who can change it? “We the people!”

So let’s change it!


This is where Americanelect.org comes in. It’s a national, non-partisan online caucus. There are no labels.  Party affiliation is set aside.


There is currently a bill pending in NC to pass the National Popular vote. This is a revolution powered by the people.


Eleanor Roosevelt said, “do one thing every day that scares you.” So go out there – think for yourself. Demand better.


@lawshaheenjr Taking what we’ve learned and doing something better. Keeping with the theme of the second half of these talks, the idea of giving back. Let’s bring our final speaker up to talk about the power of giving back.



Nick Breaux @nickbreaux


I’m going to talk about a concept called servant leadership.

It’s not about who’s in the spotlight – it’s about spreading the message by serving others.


((gives the analogy of a sunflower))


  • Hey, I’m a good looking sunflower.
  • The sunflower talks to the bee.
  • He tells the bee to spread the message to other sunflowers
  • Once they are informed, they become champions of the message
  • The other sunflowers spread the message even further.


So, share what you’re all about. Share the message!

  • Enlighten
  • Empower
  • Spread your mission.


How do you do this?

  • Find your passion.
  • Enjoy being who you are.
  • Share this passion with others.
  • Enlighten/Empower them to do the same thing
  • Reach far and wide
  • Do what brings you joy


Community service comes from the things you do naturally

So, what is it that you’re passionate about? Do that!


So, here’s your challenge:

  • Find out what is your passion
  • Share that passion
  • Empower others to share your passion
  • Choose to serve others
  • Give a little


That’s all folks!

Bus Stop Tweet Ignite Charlotte 4

I hope you’ve been inspired to submit talks, volunteer or attend Ignite Charlotte 5 this fall. Check out the ignite charlotte for more information.