The University of Arizona will host a series of seven talks Friday, Feb. 16, called TEDxUofA where speakers will explore the theme “uncharted” with discussions ranging from artificial intelligence, to the philosophy of comic books, to gender and race.

The independently organized TED event is at 3 p.m. in Crowder Hall, on campus at 1017 N. Olive Road. Tickets are $20 for the general public. Students pay $10. This will be the first TEDx event hosted by the university and organized by students operating under Innovate UA.

TED — which stands for the convergence of technology, entertainment and design — is a nonprofit that promotes shared ideas through short powerful talks that foster “ideas worth spreading.”

“Not everyone is fortunate enough to attend TED conferences though,” said Jesse LeFevre, UA senior and the event’s executive director. The standard cost of attending one of the multi-day conferences is $10,000.

Which is why LeFevre headed up TEDxUofA. The TEDx program enables communities, organizations and individuals to produce TED-style events at the local level, under a free license from TED.

“We wanted to make these messages heard,” he said.

Faculty, students or alumni were welcome to apply to give a talk lasting less than 18 minutes. About 30 speakers were interviewed. Seven were chosen for the event.

“When they prompted us to apply, they told us to take the theme and run with it,” said Sherard Robbins, assistant dean of students, and one of the speakers.

Robbins chose to explore the “Darkseid” of comic books, which is a play on one of Superman’s enemies.

Robbins will illustrate “how comic books can serve as a viable medium for understanding the world around us in more digestible and palpable ways.”

Jessica Kapp, associate department head of geosciences and a senior lecturer, will talk about her time exploring the strictly controlled Tibetan plateau during her dissertation research.

“But the more profound part of the talk is about saying yes to something you didn’t think you could do and what you find in yourself,” Kapp said.

“I was never a science person, an outdoors person or a math person,” she said. A sudden life change forced her to re-evaluate her direction in life, and now she’s a geoscientist. “My talk is about tapping into the uncharted part of myself that I thought wasn’t there.”

She encourages her general-education, non-science undergraduate students to pursue science even if they think they can’t. “I was just like you,” she tells them.

Joel Cuello, a professor in agricultural-biosystems engineering, will explore how artificial intelligence can be used in food production. His talk is directly related to the research he is doing at the UA.

“The application of artificial intelligence on crop production is just beginning,” he said. But he’s developing systems that will make the entire process of growing and managing crops controlled by machines — what’s called “AI complete.”

Other speakers include Caleb Warren, assistant professor of marketing; Hester Oberman, a lecturer in religious studies and classics; Nolan Cabrera, associate professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education; and Jonathan Bean, assistant professor in the school of architecture.

Contact Mikayla Mace at or (520) 433-0526. In Twitter: @mikaylagram.