Theater professor’s TEDx speech focuses on ‘replacing fear with curiosity’

Ed Baker, associate professor of Theater, once decided to arrive to a lab classroom of stagecraft students with a box full of light bulbs, radios and various equipment.

“So for lab today, we’re going to start taking things apart,” Baker said at the time. “What do you want to start with?”

Eventually, together as a group they broke an LED lightbulb, took the globe off, looked inside and attempted to light individual LED’s with a power inverter.

“It smoked the inverter and just destroyed it — burned it up,” Baker said with a chuckle.

“Once we started down this trail of taking things apart there was no shyness in the room.”

This episode struck a chord with Baker and breathed life into the central idea of his upcoming TEDx speech, which is titled: “Replace Fear of the Unknown with Curiosity.” He is set to speak for 14 minutes about replacing fear with curiosity on April 27 in the CAC Theater at Wichita State University as one of the nine speakers focusing on the overall theme of curiosity, creativity and connection.

Baker, who specializes in technology, innovation, and management at Wichita State, said he plans to speak about all three parts of the main theme in his speech.

Baker did not submit his name for the event, but was anonymously submitted by someone else, he said.

Once Wichita State University was given the green light to host a TEDx event on campus, thanks to entrepreneurship student Puvindvren Supramanium, an all-call was put out to faculty and students on campus to sign up to give a TEDx Talk at the event, said Nancy Loosle, director of student involvement.

Once his name was submitted he had to write up a one page letter on the theme: “Curiosity, Creativity and Connection.”

From there, the selection committee selected the letters and ranked them, Loosle said.

Baker was one of the nine selected to give a speech.

“My one page didn’t end up in the final speech,” he said. “I’m working on committing (the speech) to memory.”

The best TED videos look “off the cuff,” he said, but it’s only because everyone is required to memorize their speech beforehand.

Sophomore Sydney Jordan happened to be in Baker’s class when he encouraged his students to start taking things apart.

When Baker introduced the lab’s activity for the day, Jordan said many students in the classroom acted like they didn’t really know what to do or where to begin.

“That day was the best for me,” Jordan said. “I’ve always liked legos and taking things apart.”

She said she encouraged her classmates to just start taking things apart.

“I have a lot of anxiety about things but if I really want to do it I can figure out what’s going on,” Jordan said.

Jordan came to Wichita State from Kansas City. She said she was very nervous when she first visited Wichita State to see if it was the college she wanted to go to.

The first person she met on campus was Baker. She said at first Baker was a jerk to her, in a joking sort of way, because she told him she was thinking about going to Nebraska.

“He seemed really cool so the school seemed really cool,” Jordan said.

TEDx Speech Preview

Baker gave a short preview of the premise behind his TEDx speech:

“I used to think students were becoming less and less confident with what they thought they could do with their lives,” he said.

Baker said he thinks young adults going into a career field have a tough time nowadays because they’re told “You need to pick a good career” when they’re younger.

“I think that’s led to not being curious about things outside of that one [career] that person might have selected,” he said. “We’ve been so busy saying follow your passion, but what we haven’t talked about is how do we find out what that (passion) is.

He said he came to realize it’s not about confidence, it’s about curiosity. Passion is not something you will stumble upon like a penny on the sidewalk, Baker said.

“If all you ever do is stay in your (campus) building and look at one [subject],” he said, “you’re not going to see how your one [subject] fits into the world or how you can help people outside of your field.”

“You have to look at the world around you.”