TED Talking at NJIT

NJIT hosted the second TEDxNJIT, with seven talks about sustainability.

A New York Times blogger recently wrote about Anthony Sorgi, an NJIT senior who created the New Earth Archive, a compendium of great books for college students.    

Donald Sebastian, Senior Vice President for Research & Development at NJIT, oversees research that is helping to build a greener America.   

And Richard Garber, an associate professor of architecture at NJIT, has won accolades for designing sustainable buildings.  

All three of them – Sorgi, Sebastian and Garber – were featured speakers at the TEDx NJIT, a series of talks on sustainability. Four others also spoke, so altogether there seven short talks about how to create a sustainable environment.

This was the second TEDx NJIT. The first, held in the winter of 2011, was a series of talks about  entrepreneurship and innovation.  Those talks, now posted on You Tube, were so successful that NJIT decided to host another TEDx.talk.  Kevin Ly, a biology major at NJIT, organized the TEDxNJIT. He recently wrote an essay for the Daily Record discussing the value of the the TEDxNJIT. Essentially, Ly wrote that the talks bring people together to "envision a world where we can use technology to create a better ecosystem that improves human health."     

“We thought sustainability was a theme with a wide appeal,” says Ly, a student in the Albert Dorman Honors College. “The speakers at the TEDxNJIT discussed the growing sustainability movement and especially how businesses in the Newark area are becoming environmentally conscious.” 

One of the TEDxNJIT speakers, David Rosenberg, is even building interior farms in Newark. Rosenberg is Chief Executive Officer of AeroFarms, a company that builds interior farms in cities.  The company built a rooftop garden for St. Philip’s Academy, in Newark, just a few blocks away from NJIT.  AeroFarms uses an aeroponic growing machine to nourish the vegetable plants.  The company intends to transform some of Newark’s vacant buildings into vertical farms and to provide locally grown vegetable to residents.

The three others who spoke at the TEDx NJIT were::

• Darren Molnar-Port, the Green Building Administrator for the N.J.’s Department of Community Affairs; he discussed the state’s effort to create more green buildings.

• Florence Hudson, an IBM executive who develops Energy & Environmental solutions for the company; she talked about IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative.

• Peter Spitz, a Chemical and Energy Industry blogger; he talked about the sustainability movement in the chemical and energy industries.

NJIT is an apt place to discuss sustainability. Princeton Review named NJIT one of the nation’s greenest universities. NJIT has installed a solar hot water system in Oak Hall, a dormitory building, which reduces energy use by 50 percent.  Similar systems are being installed on three other campus buildings. And the solar panel array atop NJIT’s Campus Center reduces energy costs and carbon emissions. 

In terms of research and development, several NJIT professors study ways to improve the environment. To cite just three examples, one professor is researching how to desalinate seawater. Another is creating polymers to replace harmful chemicals, while a third is researching energy efficiency of buildings. And on the teaching front, NJIT offers myriad courses, certificates and programs in green issues and sustainability.

And all of that benefits the students and motivates them to help make a better world.  Sorgi, the student who created the New Earth Archive, says today’s college students are often viewed as apathetic -- lacking in social conscious.  Not so, he says. He hopes his archive and his TEDx talk will inspire college students to act to improve the environment.    

“I want to improve the world and other NJIT students feel the same way,” says Sorgi, a biomedical engineering major in the Albert Dorman Honors College.  “We know our society faces obstacles but we’d be failing ourselves if we didn’t try to make a difference.”

By Robert Florida