Sheridan prof demos creativity at TEDxHamilton


Dan Zen, inventor and Sheridan interactive multimedia professor, sweeps Hamilton Spectator  auditorium with hockey stick broom. (Photography by Elise Morton)


Imagine living in a world where money wasn’t as important as communicating with people, you could ride a slide to work and sweep the floor with a hockey stick broom.

Inside the Hamilton Spectator auditorium six speakers shared these intriguing ideas, their stories and inventions with the 100 people at the TEDxHamilton: Engineering Grace event last Friday.

The independently organized TED event featured speeches, which focused on different forms of engineering and achieving grace in life, from hard-working mothers, a builder, doctor and more.

“The goal for the night was really to introduce people to a lot of new ideas and to showcase the people we have in this city,” said Paul Vilchez, a member of the TEDxHamilton team. “Last year, I noticed that all these different communities are under our noses, but we just don’t hear about them.”

“By holding an event like this, we can showcase someone from a different community that you might not experience, and plus it’s just really awesome so that’s why we wanted to do it again.”


Through, the emotional tales of struggle, sadness, healing and strength no one was as memorable as Dan Zen, an inventor and professor in the interactive multimedia program at Sheridan College.

Whether, it was his helpful tips, friendly personality or wacky inventions Zen left the crowd intrigued and with a new perspective on how to find or have a moment of “aha” without the wait.

“The problem is a lot of us think that we can create only when inspiration hits us,” said Zen. “The way to be creative on demand is by inventing with simplicity. It is simple to invent if you invent with simplicity.”


Dan Zen, joins in on the celebration with the TEDxHamilton volunteers at the end of the night.


To demonstrate an “aha moment”, Zen showed the audience his favourite broom, which happens to be a hockey stick with some bristles screwed to the blade.

He had broken the handle off of his broom and realized while he was sweeping with the head that this was easier than the push broom. He also found the angle he was sweeping on was familiar to using a hockey stick. Struck by a moment of creativity a new invention was born.

“I hope to bring the word of creativity to as many people as possible to help them lead a creative life,” said Zen. “TED talks are relatively famous for sharing ideas, I live here in Hamilton and I saw the opportunity to talk.”

The event was a team effort by the speakers, TEDxHamilton organizers, sponsors and many volunteers.

“I found it really inspirational. I’ve always seen videos of TED talks, but I really wanted to go and I thought it would be a good opportunity to volunteer here,” said Gurneet Chahal, a first-time volunteer.

“I feel really privileged to be a part of it. I feel like it gives me motivation and I might do a TED talk one day too.”

Although, engineering grace was not the TEDxHamilton organizers’ first choice for the theme, the event was still a success and it brought together two different ideas.

“We wanted a different theme, but it got co-opted by TED, so we had to come up with a new one on the fly,” said Vilchez. “It was kind of the idea that they are two really different concepts, engineering is really artificial and man made whereas grace is nature like.”