By Carmen Achabal, IGEM Program Manager

Last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday a team from Idaho Commerce was thrilled to travel to Coeur d’Alene and participate in the 2nd Annual Think Big Festival.

The Think Big Festival focuses on educating attendees about innovative technologies, specifically new robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, while exploring the ethical implications, commercialization possibilities, and other associated questions.tbf-square-sm

The multi-day event was exciting and informative. Some highlights were Josh Hartung, CEO of Harbrick and developer of the Polysync system, urging attendees to harness a childlike curiosity and ask “what if.” Burt Rutan, an aerospace engineering legend, advised the audience to have confidence in “nonsense” because society’s naysayers will always quip negatively while researchers, scientists, and entrepreneurs turn that “nonsense” into reality.  And there was plenty of inspiration from the day’s other panelists and speakers!

Presenters like Dr. Michael McLoughlin shared revolutionary advancements in prosthetics that are giving amputees the ability to use brain control in the use of integrated prosthetics.  It was wonderful to have him share an intimate moment with us when we saw an amputee hold his fiancé’s hand for the first time.  Attendees were reminded that in spite of all the excitement in technology, it is our humanity and our quest for the greater good that drives our passion for innovation.

In an especially important moment, Friday’s events culminated by honoring Dr. Forrest Bird.  Dr. Bird was an American legend:  an aviator, inventor, and biomedical engineer.  At an early age, Dr. Bird was interested in aviation.  He met the Wright Brothers, was a World War I pilot, and served his country in the US Army Air Corps.  He later entered the medical field, where he utilized his flight experience to develop respirators for military personnel.  In 1970, Dr. Bird invented the “Babybird” respirator, which vastly reduced the mortality rate for infants with respiratory problems.  In the 80s, Dr. Bird invented the Intrapulmonary Percussive Ventilation (IPV) and in the 90s, he introduced the TBird Ventilator Series, which was the first and only truly mobile ventilator.  Thank you for sharing this Idaho gem with us!

A big thank you to Nick Smoot and the Think Big Festival for disrupting the norm by bringing world leaders in technology, curiosity, and nonsense to Idaho.

Like Dr. Bird, the Think Big Festival makes its home in my home state of Idaho.

Posted in Commerce, Technology