ideas worth spreading

Meet the speakers, performers, and exhibitors who will light up TEDxDetroit this year.

TEDxDetroit features the best and brightest minds sharing their passion, insights, and ideas worth spreading.

Our speaker roster balances left brain and right brain – academics, artists, investors, entrepreneurs, and innovators.  Each speaker only has a short block of time to share their positive idea for the world.

The main stage isn’t the only place to experience big ideas at TEDxDetroit. TEDxLabs and TEDxMarketplace showcase homegrown tech, art, and small businesses right outside the theatre. It’s part business expo, part art gallery, and part science fair. You can demo new tech, sample local cuisine, buy from local artisans, and meet the speakers in between sessions during TEDxDetroit.

Jaime Waydo

Chief Technology Officer & Co-Founder of Cavnue

Jaime Waydo is the CTO for Cavnue. She is responsible for developing the technology stack to accelerate deployment of fully autonomous driving and to support existing routes and drivers with increased safety and innovation. Jaime comes to Cavnue from Apple, where she served as a Senior Engineer. Previously, Jaime led systems engineering at Waymo (Google’s Self Driving Car program). Her early career included work at NASA on the Mars Rover Curiosity. Jaime earned her Bachelor’s from Montana State University and Master’s at UCLA.

Earl Lucas Jr

Chief Exterior Designer, Lincoln Motor Company

Earl Lucas Jr. is a Chief Exterior Designer for the Lincoln Motor Company. He has acquired 100+ automotive design patents and many awards over the past 20-years. Career highlights include the 2018 Lincoln Navigator (2018 NAIAS Truck of the Year), the Lincoln Navigator Concept, and the 2010 Ford Taurus. Prior to joining Ford, Lucas worked for Reese Design developing aircraft interiors for the Sultan of Brunei. Lucas earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the College of Creative Studies.

Annie Agar

NFL & CFB Insider
Bally Sports

Annie Agar is forging her own path in sports media. When the world was experiencing a lack of sports during the pandemic, Annie’s sports comedy videos ignited social media. The Grand Rapids native became an internet sensation for her parody sports video sketches. Annie’s rise represents the possibilities for non-traditional content creators. Annie built an identity through her personality and creativity, with the goal of bringing happiness to people through sports and comedy. Social media can provide a platform and be a positive connection for people during difficult times.

Brandee Cooke Brown

Executive Director,
100K ideas

100K ideas is a non-profit with a mission to relieve the innovator of the entrepreneurial burden. They work with garage inventors and startup owners to figure out what their next steps should be. Brandee joined 100K Ideas in 2017. She started as Project Manager and was eventually promoted to Executive Director in 2020. Brandee graduated in 2011 from the University of Michigan with my degree in Psychology. She now resides in Grand Blanc, MI with her husband and 2-year old daughter.

Michael Healander

Co-Founder, President & CEO,
Airspace Link

Airspace Link’s vision is to create a world where the safe integration of drones fuels human progress, advancing social equity, the environment, and the economy. As Co-Founder & CEO of Airspace Link, Michael is a leader in location technology and has 20 years of experience driving growth in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems, transportation and geospatial industry.

Deirdre Roberson


Deirdre Roberson is a Chemist and Fashion Designer born and raised in Detroit. Her work is dedicated to uplifting Black and Brown people around the world through science, design and creativity. She is the founder of EUMELANIN, is a fashion brand that infuses science by using the chemical structure of Melanin in its designs, and Co-founder of The Lab Drawer, an Ed-Tech monthly subscription box full of cross-functional learning experiences for children ages 10 – 14.

Vic Strecher

Professor, University of Michigan
Founder & CEO, Kumanu

Vic is a professor at the University of Michigan’s Schools of Public Health and Founder of Kumanu, Inc. His latest neuroscience, behavioral, and epidemiologic research; his two books, Life On Purpose and the graphic novel On Purpose; his free massive open online course Finding Purpose and Meaning in Life, which in its first seven months has over 90,000 enrollees, and the Purposeful application his business (Kumanu) created are all focused on the importance of developing and maintaining a strong purpose in life.

Tamara Kolton

Rabbi, Psychologist
& Author

Rabbi Tamara Kolton Ph.D. is an independent rabbi, psychologist and feminine mythologist. She is the author of Oranges for Eve: My Brave, Beautiful, Badass Journey to the Feminine Divine. Rabbi Kolton is most passionate about the Feminine Divine and how to bring Her energy to a world in desperate need of truth, light and power. She believes that Love is that answer.

Darnell Blackburn

Founder & CEO
PRAT International

Darnell is a veteran law enforcement professional serving as a Police Officer and Law Enforcement Specialist. He has helped develop curriculum and led training for departments throughout Michigan. He is an adjunct professor at Macomb Community College, as well as the CEO of PRAT International where he facilitates training on implicit bias, verbal de-escalation, stress management, and more. He earned his Bachelor’s in Psychology from Michigan State University and his MBA from the University of Phoenix.

Marc Rosenthal

Attending Physician &
Supervisory Medical Officer

Dr. Rosenthal is a Fellow of the American Board of Emergency Medicine and Academy of Emergency Medical Services. He is an Attending Physician at Sinai-Grace Hospital/DMC, the Supervisory Medical Officer of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), the Associate Program Director for the Wayne State EMS Fellowship. As an active member of the NDMS, he has responded to disasters and National Special Security Events for the last 21 years starting with 9/11.

Robert Courtney Collins

Social Media
Branding Strategist

Robert Courtney is the Founder and Facilitator behind – Robert Courtney & Associates, A Marketing & Branding Agency. He’s an expert in creating disruptive, business strategies, and a builder of community through digital marketing, branding, and social media services. A desire to invest into the development of people and their personal brand has been a vision of his for over a decade.

Julie Booksh

Professional Counselor
Speaker and Coach

Julie is a Therapist and Speaker who gets right to the heart of the human struggle. She helps people connect more deeply to themselves so they can live with more health, clarity and peace. Julie has consulted with businesses ranging from global corporations to wellness spas across the region.

Dave Glenn

Chief Business Development Officer
Cyturus Technologies

Dave Glenn is the Chief Business Development Officer for Cyturus, a Risk Mitigation and Maturation SaaS provider. He has a lifelong passion for technology, mentoring, training, building relationships and community and is active in his church and at Great Lakes Adventist Academy (GLAA). Dave is passionate about building mentorship programs, and is developing a high-school curriculum to instill entrepreneurship skills and to provide students an understanding of (and defense against) the risks of the digital world.

Emmanuel Smith

Dean of Culture
University Preparatory Academy

Emmanuel “Mr. E in the D” Smith is the Dean of Culture at the UPA Elementary School – Ellen Thompson Campus in Detroit. Mr. E founded an edutainment company based on the 4 Es – “through Edutainment we Encourage, Educate, and Empower children to be lifelong learners who aren’t afraid to take risks because life is an adventure!” He is on a mission is to help spark & reimagine what learning can look and sound like. Emmanuel was awarded an Emmy last year for The Mr. E Show web series.

Ashwin Asokan & Dhaya Sridharan

Ashwin Asokan has been playing the guitar for 29 years and was the lead guitarist for bands in India and the US. He is also a composer for short films and a music teacher. Dhaya Sridharan has been playing the veena for 18 years and has performed in concerts in Singapore and the US. Dhaya is also a prevention educator for Intimate Partner Violence, blogger, runner, and a happy mom. 3 years ago, Ashwin Asokan and Dhaya Sridharan lived 10,000 miles apart and then the universe conspired to bring them together in love and music – “Strings Attached”

David Dyer

Comedian &

David Dyer has been a comedian for 28 years. He’s worked with Mike Birbiglia, Lewis Black, and many others. He’s a frequent guest on the nationally syndicated “Bob & Tom Show” and recorded a DryBar Comedy Special that has over a million views. At the age of 49, he became a firefighter. His wife is very nervous.

Camila Ballario


Comedian Camila Ballario is an Argentina-born American, who immigrated to Michigan in the early 90s with her family. She earned a bachelor’s in music from the University of Michigan School of Music and a master’s in business administration from the Ross School of Business. Voted ‘Best Comedian in Washtenaw County’ in 2020 by Current Magazine, and winning ‘Best of Fest’ at the 2021 Big Pine Comedy Festival, Camila has been entertaining crowds far and wide with her fresh brand of stand-up, where she often joins her ideas with songs to give you a unique look into being a woman in her 30s.

Karter Johnson

Chief Executive Officer,
Popcorn and Books

A 10-year-old literacy influencer from Detroit, Karter is the CEO of Popcorn and Books – a subscription box encouraging kids to read more and to enjoy reading one book at a time. Karter made it his business to fight the literacy problem after learning his fellow third-graders were struggling to read. Now a 501c3 nonprofit organization, Karter has launched ‘Build A Kid’s Library’ where he sends high-quality, age-appropriate books to kids in Detroit. and its surrounding areas once a month at no cost to their families.

Riana Elyse Anderson

Assistant Professor
University of Michigan

Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson is a daughter of Detroit, Carnival caravanner, public health professor, mental health maven, and carb connoisseur. She’s been working with Black youth and families from South Central LA to Southwest Detroit to heal from racism and engage in activism for healthy communities.

Karen Dybis

Author &
Freelance Reporter

Karen Dybis is an author and freelance reporter who is inspired by local history and overlooked heroes. Her goal is to elevate stories that highlight the creativity and innovation in Detroit and the Midwest. She has four nonfiction books, “Better Made in Michigan,” “The Witch of Delray,” “The Ford-Wyoming Drive-In,” and “Secret Detroit.”

Christopher Swanson

Genesee County

As a career police officer with experience spanning three decades, Chris has served in a multitude of positions including: corrections, patrol, narcotics, criminal investigation, elder abuse, and command operations. As Sheriff, Chris has made it his mission to bridge divide through unity – by breaking the chains of generational incarceration and promoting social justice & police evolution.

Christopher Johnson

Virtual Event Professional
Voice Over-Artist

Born and raised in Detroit, Christopher Johnson is a professional voice artist, actor, and virtual event producer. He is the founder of Calm Clear Communications, where he produces virtual events for professional organizations. Curiosity and tenacity are his defining characteristics.

Julie Barnes Maurer

Coach. Instructor.

Born in Detroit and raised all over the northern suburbs, Julie Barnes Maurer is the Trampoline and Tumbling Team head coach at FlipSpot Gymnastics. She is a perpetual volunteer and community enthusiast. On any given day you will find her running with one or all of the Detroit running groups or helping out at Detroit running events.

Stephen McGee

Filmmaker, Cinematographer,
Drone Op, Editor

Stephen McGee is a two time emmy award winning documentary photographer and filmmaker who’s films include Anthem of Us and Move Here Move the World. He has traveled to 39 countries for work, 45 states and almost every Detroit neighborhood. His recent project “Resurgo” is an interactive, multi-platform, phased release of curated imagery and audio from the 16 years of Detroit’s journey he has documented. The 1.6 million photographs, personal field notes, hundreds of interviews and thousands of hours of footage document the transformative period of 2005-2021. McGee hopes to create a platform for residents to add their voice and images to to offset the headlines that dominated Detroit’s narrative for decades.

Ara Topouzian

Armenian Folk

Ara Topouzian is an Armenian-American musician whose proficiency at the Kanun (Middle Eastern harp) has made him a nationally-recognized artist. He has performed at concerts, music festivals and many celebrated venues across the United States, with some of the top musicians of Armenian and Middle Eastern music. Topouzian’s traditional music style keeps to his Armenian heritage but has expanded to include music from around the Middle East with jazz, fusion, and new age influences.

Brynn Cummings

Magician &

Brynn Cummings is a 10 year old award winning magician and ventriloquist from Paw Paw, Michigan. Brynn was featured on Penn & Teller’s Try This At Home special on the CW as well as many local media outlets. Her personality and showmanship shines on stage as she adds her own twists to classic magic tricks and stages and show around the state.

Eric Thompson Jr

Author, Poet &

Eric Thompson Jr is a creative born and raised in Detroit. He wears many hats as an Author, Sports Coach, Mentor, Entrepreneur, Journalist, Public Speaker and Spoken Word Poet. Eric has been a writer for Top Flight Magazine, Fashion Music Culture Magazine and Urban Content Studios. Eric has authored and published Blame It On The Music and Emotional Black Guy. His main passion is encouraging and motivating youth using poetry and literature.

Dixon's Violin


You’ve never heard violin like this! The world’s premier visionary violinist, Dixon’s life mission is to inspire people – and he has done so across North America, including giving three TED talks/performances, over ten years at Burning Man, plus radio, TV, and film appearances. A former technology leader and symphony violinist, Dixon walked away from a distinguished career to follow his dream full-time, and invented a whole new music genre. Dixon now improvises on a 5-string electric violin with a looping system he developed to create an all-live one-man symphony, guided by his remarkable personal story of life transformation.

Moody Mattan

VR & AR Developer
CEO of BrandXR

Moody is the founder and CEO of BrandXR. Prior to founding BrandXR, Moody founded PowisVR, where he built a multi-million dollar virtual reality headset and mobile accessories business. He led investments in Meta, Sidecar, and Genius at Fenox Venture Capital. Moody specializes in finding profitable strategies for emerging technologies. A former Wayne State University football player, Moody recently moved back to Detroit to strengthen the tech community and play a role in the city’s resurgence.

Amer Zahr

Comedian, Producer,
& Professor

Amer Zahr is a Palestinian Arab American comedian, speaker, writer, academic, and adjunct professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He draws on his experiences growing up as a child of Palestinian refugees, performing and lecturing on topics like politics, society, culture, identity, Palestine, Islam, and more.