TedxSanLuisObispo will bring a new platform of speakers to the Performing Arts Center in its fourth annual conference Feb. 8. The theme for this year’s event is “Xpanding Horizons.” 

According to TedxSanLuisObispo Executive Director of Sponsorship and economics senior Khushbu Patel, the theme was chosen to allow all speakers to discuss the varying journeys they taken to reach their goals. 

“Although everyone’s goals may not be the same, there is one commonality between them all: to gain experience and expand our horizons,” Patel said. “We want our speakers to share with our attendees some insight into how they created, reacted to or learned from the horizons that have reached or hope to achieve.” 

One of the speakers, Zahnae Aquino, is a computer science senior who worked at Cal Poly’s California Cybersecurity Institute (CCI) as the lead of virtual and augmented reality software. Much of the software she worked to create at the institute, she said, aims to prepare law enforcement officers and others for potential online human trafficking situations.

Aquino’s work combating online human trafficking, she said, is inspired by her own experiences. 

“I identify as a survivor,” Aquino said. “I used to be a victim of sexual assault, but now I see myself more as a survivor of it in that I now use my experiences, my voice and my platform in order to empower others and help out others.”

Video by Matthew Bornhorst

In working for the CCI, Aquino said she has used her own understanding of sexual crime to help others as best as she can.

“Even though I am not necessarily a survivor of human trafficking, I do know what it feels like as a woman to feel hopeless,” Aquino said.

Aquino also said that the goal of her talk is to demonstrate how one may “shift [their] context” to rise up from difficult situations and accomplish their goals. 

College of Engineering Associate Dean for Innovation and Infrastructure Robert Crockett will also speak about virtual reality. Crockett has worked throughout his life on different virtual reality technologies, including a pair of gloves that allows users to feel the shape, texture and motion of virtual objects.

“My talk is kind of the ultimate example of expanding horizons because it is literally about the ability to expand or change reality,” Crockett said. 

Crockett’s main goal for his talk is allowing attendees to obtain a better understanding not simply of what virtual reality is, but how it can be used and “what it means for the world,” he said.

Ted is a global nonprofit organization devoted to helping people better understand the world through ideas worth spreading, according to the TedxSanLuisObispo website.

The event will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25 for students, and $40 for non-students.

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