Maya Baumeister speaks to a crowd at the 2015 TEDxUGA Student Idea Competition.

The New Media Institute at the University of Georgia hosted the third annual TEDxUGA student idea competition in the Chapel Thursday evening.

The event showcased nine students and staff from UGA who gave presentations on various topics, and was a preliminary event before the TEDxUGA 2015 event March 27.

Each presenter spoke to a full audience interested in the students’ discussions on everything from horticultural therapy to public health awareness to technical literacy.

Stephanie Jones, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice, opened the night with a presentation regarding the proverbial “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Through anecdotes, Jones discussed controversial books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the issues behind not teaching in grade schools.

“We can’t be afraid to have these conversations,” she said. “Even if they’re uncomfortable, we need to talk about the books we read.”

Michael Bottone, a computer programmer, spoke on the importance of technical literacy, emphasizing that, despite growing use of cell phones and computers and wider access to the Internet, there is still a struggling demographic of those who lack the ability to utilize the technology.

Bottone also pointed out that technical know how is “not just for the computer guys anymore,” and how an understanding of how technology works and Internet safety is crucial in making informed decisions in the world today.

Adrian Picker, a microbiologist, tackled the topic of public health awareness, stressing the importance of moving past the false claim that some vaccines can cause autism. Picker stated that fear mongering did nothing more than slow progress and halt public health momentum.

Once all nine speakers had presented, a panelist of four judges decided the winners in two categories. Emily Hiers, who spoke about elimination “the r-word” from our vocabulary, won the award for best delivery, and Maya Baumeister, who spoke on horticultural therapy, won for most original idea. Connor Lewis, who spoke on space exploration, also won the audience’s favorite vote.