LCHS students, teachers keep motivations short but sweet at inaugural ‘Ignite Talk’

Sometimes even large, grandiose ideas are most effective when kept short and sweet.

That’s the rationale behind Ignite Talks — a speaker series platform that resembles the innovative TED Talks format in spirit but operates under the motto “Enlighten us, but make it quick”— which found an appreciative audience Feb. 2 at La Cañada High School.


LCHS junior and organizer Nicole Johnson wanted to create a speaking event that would allow fellow Spartans to share their ideas on topics that sparked their passion and interest.

“I thought it would be a really good chance to hear a bunch of stories and get people involved in that world of listening to stories,” Johnson said.


She had a TED Talk forum in mind, but was advised by La Cañada Unified chief technology officer and co-director Jamie Lewsadder to follow a shorter format that would be succinct and hold the audience’s attention.

Participation meant speakers had to limit themselves to just five minutes. Their talk had to be accompanied by a 20-paned slide show that advanced every 15 seconds.

Seven students and two teachers signed up to talk on topics ranging from biodiversity to economic trends in education to DNA tests and our search for identity. Dancer Tessa Fungo and singers Ashley Chun (accompanied by Austin Yu on guitar) and Shalini Pularkat punctuated the talks with musical performances.

In his presentation, “Trapped World,” sophomore Sean Natarajan tackled the topic of cellphone addiction.

“We carry these devices in our pockets and though they may seem very nice and very friendly they are, in fact, dangerous,” he said, adding that one in three teens sends more than 100 text messages per day. “We need to find a way to create a balance between our cellphone usage and our regular lives.”

Senior Priscilla Kang advised listeners to change the world by first changing themselves, while sophomore Anurima Chattopadhyay likened the process of gene splicing to a Panda Express employee boxing up customers’ selections at will. This brings with it many inherent questions.

“We also have to ask the tough ethical questions, like whether manipulating nature is safe in the long term,” Chattopadhyay said. “What are the repercussions? We don’t know. And what power do we, or should we, have over such a natural process like evolution?”

Afterward, Johnson said she plans to form with interested students an Ignite Talk club on campus, where members could perfect the craft of condensed public speaking and possibly hold impromptu discussions on the quad during lunch.

“Everybody was excited to get this opportunity to talk, so we thought, ‘let’s start a club,’” she said.