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From space to AI: TEDxJacksonville spotlights innovation

Dr. Tammy Hodo speaks at a TEDxJacksonville event in 2019.
Dr. Tammy Hodo speaks at a TEDxJacksonville event in 2019.

TEDxJacksonville will bring a slate of thought-provoking discussions to town next month, ranging from space industrialization to maritime archaeology, artificial intelligence, civic leadership, business innovation and the DNA of addiction.

The conference, named FRICTION, will take place from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 22 in Terry Theater at the Jacksonville Center for Performing Arts. The lineup includes 12 speakers, three musical and artistic performances, interactive experiences and an afterparty at the Jessie Ball duPont Center.

"The conference theme for 2022 represents our team’s belief that FRICTION is the necessary ingredient for positive change and the place where true innovation begins,” organizer and executive producer Jeanmarie Grimsley said in a news release.

Grimsley is in her first year as executive producer for TEDxJacksonville — assuming the role from former executive producer Sabeen Perwaiz, who remains the licensee and continues to serve on the volunteer leadership team.

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that combine TED Talks videos and live speakers to spark discussion and connection.

Organizers say the conference will "showcase fresh approaches to enduring problems and challenge our conceptions of what's possible."

Tickets for TEDxJacksonville may be purchased here.

This year's speakers are:

Basma Alawee of Jacksonville, humanitarian and refugee advocate. Alawee believes that when we provide opportunities for refugees to share their stories safely and realize their potential as leaders, it fosters a sense of belonging and agency over their lives. Alawee sees the opportunity to help refugees as one that builds a more vibrant society, as well as a stronger, better America.

Matt Berseth of Jacksonville, artificial intelligence expert — Many of the modern world’s most dazzling innovations, such as self-driving cars, digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, and facial recognition on our phones, are powered by artificial intelligence. Berseth will share ways in which AI is solving real problems today and how recognizing the limits of AI is essential to using it responsibility.

Ashton Body of Jacksonville, student scientist — As a high school sophomore, Body conducted biomedical research at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. After five years, her dream of creating a novel drug delivery system to treat aggressive breast cancer has become a reality. The aspiring physician is passionate about increasing health equity and providing better, personal patient care guided by medical innovation.

Dr. Evelyn Higgins of Jupiter, addiction researcher — New research is showing that the biomarkers for addiction can now be identified, isolated and measured in our DNA. Higgins, an international expert in the epidemiology of addiction, argues that genetic testing is a vital treatment resource that can change the lens through which society views addiction.

Lainie Ishibia of Bradenton, disability advocate and entrepreneur — As an entrepreneur and disability advocate, Lainie Ishbia believes broadening our understanding of disability isn’t just a moral and ethical imperative — it’s also good business.

Tanaine Jenkins of Jacksonville, recidivism strategist and reentry expert — Why do we continue to release individuals into society from prison with no plan? Jenkins believes creating viable reentry strategies for our returning citizens is an investment in safer neighborhoods, fewer broken homes and the power of second chances.

Neil Moore of Sacramento, California, international music educator — Moore explains that humanity must think more creatively than ever before. By providing the brain with the critical neurological nutrition of musicianship, he says we can discover and reconnect to our innate creative capability and prepare ourselves for the complex and challenging future we face.

Duval County Judge-elect Audrey Moran of Jacksonville, civic leader — Moran is an attorney and mediator who has been elected County Court Judge and will take the bench in January. Moran will discuss her very public loss in running for mayor and how that loss inspired her to achieve meaningful change through other avenues. Her talk will also cover the strategies that other advocates can examine in making important changes for their own communities.

Tara Roberts of Atlanta, National Geographic Explorer — Tara Roberts has spent the last four years following Diving with a Purpose, a team of Black scuba divers, in searching for the wrecks of slave ships that carried captive Africans during the Middle Passage. Roberts will explore the transformative power of telling historical stories from a fresh and personal perspective.

Andrew Rush of Jacksonville, space industrialist — Rush, president and COO of Redwire, has led the company to become the first to manufacture parts in space, sell a space-built product to a customer on Earth, and build the first-ever satellite that will manufacture and assemble parts of itself on-orbit. He will share how space exploration — and manufacturing products in space — can enhance life on earth.

Hamzah Shanbari, Jacksonville, Construction Technologist —  The director of innovation for the Haskell Co., a global leader in architecture, engineering and construction solutions, Shanbari believes that the talk around innovation needs to be much broader, with a much higher tolerance for failures.

Nicole Thomas of Jacksonville, health care leader — Thomas, president of Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, will share her perspective on how to work outside the hospital walls to build a healthier, more equitable Jacksonville. She is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Conference performers are:

Nan Nkama Pan-African Drum and Dance Ensemble — Nan Nkama Pan-African Drum and Dance Ensemble is Jacksonville's premier source of Afro-Diaspora performing arts. The dance and music performance troupe concentrates in West African (Mande) music, dance and culture.

Spoken word artist Reece the Poet — Reece the Poet is also an artist, musician and communicator who specializes in storytelling. He seeks to educate, equip, and empower students to make healthy life choices through verbal engagement and critical thinking exercises.

SaysWho — Coming from a range of backgrounds but brought together by their love of music, SaysWho is a band out of Jacksonville, formed with the vision of creating feel-good music.

Hope McMath — a Northeast Florida cultural leader, educator, artist and the founder of Yellow House — is returning as conference host for the eighth year in a row.

For more details about the speakers and performers for FRICTION, go to

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at or on Twitter, @rroguski.