TEDxRWTHAachen 2018


On Saturday, June 09th, 2018, the fifth TEDxRWTHAachen conference was held in Aachen. It was a one-day event centered around TED talks, where people of different backgrounds came together to spread their thoughts, ideas, and experiences with the local community.

The five-year anniversary conference in this year, with an audience of 200 people, consisted of eight talks and one performance. The location, the CT2 (Centre for Teaching and Training) of RWTH Aachen University in the Melaten Campus, was as much of an organizational challenge as it was an opportunity, whose construction had been completed only weeks before the event.


We chose the theme Boldness to set a focus on the courage it often takes to stand up for an unconventional idea. A great idea can easily be forgotten if there no bold person standing behind it, enthusiastically spreading that idea. Accompanying this theme, an interactive framework program encouraging interaction was realised. A diverse audience consisting of students of all kinds of subjects, alumni and other locals contributed to particularly interesting conversations. Our speakers took us from microplastic in the oceans; to black holes in space; back to the highlands of Bolivia; and finally to the Mediterranean Sea.

We want to thank our audience, our speakers, and partners for making the conference the success that it was. You shared with us the very boldness that the world needs more of, and we wish for you to go out there and give as much of it as you can. Be bold!

Speakers & Performers

Ruben Neugebauer used to work as journalist, with a main focus on migration. He travelled on the various routes to Europe to tell the stories of those the union wants to stop at its border by all means necessary and that has become the most deadliest border in the world. When he heard about a man that wanted to buy a ship to rescue people in distress and to put pressure on the European Union to end this man made tragedy, he knew he had to join, even if it was just a crazy idea at that stage. In the days and months to follow, Sea-Watch was established and since then was able to rescue more than 20,000 people in distress on the central mediterranean and the Aegean sea. Ruben is still on board in the back office and on the assets at sea to keep up the fight for a #safepassage.

Andrea Kaifie is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Occupational, Social, and Environmental Medicine at RWTH Aachen University. She holds a degree in medicine as well as a Master in Public Health. For more than two years, her mission is to improve health and safety for workers at the world’s largest e-waste dumpsite in Accra, Ghana. She frequently travels to Ghana to understand the e-waste flow, to document the conditions at the dumpsite and to get in touch with e-waste workers. When not passionately working, she loves boxing, surfing, or just travelling around with a backpack on the back.

Christoph Netsch is a student at RWTH, a volunteer at Engineers without Borders and the winner of our student initiative casting, where we invited ten student initiatives to give a talk on the “idea worth spreading” behind their initiative. Engineers without Borders is an organization of engineers, volunteering in international development programs. They bring sustainable progress to the poorest places on earth, not by merely implementing a technology, but by teaching the locals the ability to solve problems on their own. In his talk, Christoph will illustrate the challenges they face, teaching people who usually have hardly gone past a primary school education. However, once everything works out, the locals are able to pass on their knowledge, leading to an ever increasing positive impact.

Born in Bolzano, Italy, Stampfer studied electrical engineering and technical physics at the Technical University of Vienna in Austria. He received his doctorate in the field of micro- and nanosystems technology at ETH Zurich. His doctoral thesis was awarded the ETH Medal in 2008. From March 2007 he worked as a postdoc in the nanophysics group of Prof. K. Ensslin in the Department of Physics at ETH Zurich where he conducted pioneering quantum transport experiments on graphene nanostructures. Since 2009 Mr. Stampfer is doing research at RWTH Aachen University and the Research Center Jülich where he deals with the basics of carbon-based nanoelectronics. His work on graph-based quantum electromechanical systems has earned him a highly remunerated ERC Starting Grant in 2011. Besides his research work he conceptualized Phyphox, a smartphone app with which allow the user to use the sensors, installed in a smartphone, for physical experiments.

David Spencer is a half-German, half-British songwriter from Aachen. His songs are part of the Acoustic Folk genre and thematize the modern world and the bond with nature among other things. In May 2016 David released his EP “Seasons” on which he recorded all the instruments himself. His music is influenced by great songwriters like Ben Howard, Mumford & Sons and Bob Dylan.

Co-founder and CEO of SwarmWorks Ltd. (Germany) and SwarmWorks, Inc. (USA), both specializing in the development and deployment of technologies for interactive live communication and audience engagement. Heiner combines 25 years of experience as manager, consultant, facilitator and speaker to support his clients meeting & event projects around the globe. Before starting his own companies, Heiner worked as management and strategy consultant for McKinsey & Co., Inc. and as researcher (in physics) at Stanford University (USA) and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics (Germany). Heiner has lived and worked in Germany, France, the USA, and the UK and holds a master degree in physics as well as an international MBA from INSEAD (France).

Heino Falcke is a professor of Astroparticle Physics and Radio Astronomy at the Radboud University in Nijmegen. In 2011, he received the Spinoza award, the highest science award of the Netherlands and in 2016 received the royal distinction of knight in the order of the Netherlands Lion for his scientific work. Heino has built a radio antenna that will fly onboard a Chinese satellite behind the moon to measure faint signals from the early cosmos and he found a way to image black holes with radio dishes from the ground. You can find him on twitter talking about his science and his trips to remote telescopes or on the pulpit of his home church in Frechen, where he speaks about his faith.

Marcella Hansch is an architect and founder of the green non-profit start-up Pacific Garbage Screening e.V.. As an RWTH student she developed a platform in her masters thesis, which collects plastic waste in the ocean via inverted sedimentation. After her studies she took the risk to pursue her goal of a clean ocean besides her job. With their green start-up, Marcella and her passionate team of volunteers are now preparing a feasible prototype that converts the former waste into energy and biodegradable plastics. For her innovative project, Marcella won several prices like the “25 Women Award − Women, whose inventions change our lives” of the magazine EDITION F in 2017.

Marco Lübbecke holds the chair of operations research at RWTH Aachen University. He is an applied mathematician by education, but his research and teaching blends mathematics, computer science, and business/engineering. Marco is an expert in discrete and combinatorial optimization which can be viewed as the mathematics of decision making. This may be a reason why he sees complex planning situations that could (and should!) benefit from mathematics literally everywhere. He has more than 20 years experience in modeling and solving intriguing optimization problems in logistics, mobility, production, energy, education, health care and politics, always in collaboration with companies or organizations. In one of the major projects he and his team is working on, he aims at making state-of-the-art mathematical solution technology accessible and usable for a non-expert audience. Marco is a passionate coffee drinker and he loves twitter.

Dr. Rajshree Hillstrom is a Reader in Medical Engineering in the Faculty of Science and Technology and Director of the Medical Engineering Research Group at Anglia Ruskin University. She is also a Visiting Scientist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, Visiting Professor at the University of Mascara and Visiting Scholar at Columbia University. Dr Hillstrom’s research interests involve the application of engineering principles to seek solutions to medical problems, primarily osteoarthritis, a debilitating and degenerative joint disease. Her research activities include: the development and validation of computer models of reconstructed joints to predict improved surgical fixation techniques, movement analysis to obtain quantitative measurements of body motion and joint loading during different activities, mechanical testing of reconstructed joints and tissues to investigate performance of surgical interventions and the development of prototype medical devices to address medical problems, including an intermittent pneumatic compression boot for the treatment of venous ulcers and a power tool to prevent excessive temperature rise and thermal damage to bones during machining. Dr. Hillstrom has published over 25 scientific papers, mostly indexed in Scopus, and serves as a reviewer for national and international peer-reviewed journals and funding agencies.

David Reinhaus studied Psychology at Trier University and at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf. He has nine years of professional experience as counsellor, trainer and coach in the fields of HR and Organizational development and experience in psychosocial counselling. Furthermore he has experience as lecturer at a private University and experience in stress research. He published the book “Lerntechniken” (learning techniques). Since May 2016 he has been employed as mentor and psychological counsellor at the Dean’s office for Mechanical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University. Maira Camacho van den Hurk graduated at Radboud University of Nijmegen with a focus on Industrial, Organizational and Health Psychology. During her studies, she gained her first professional experience in HR and project management. After completing her studies, Ms. Camacho van den Hurk worked in the field of competency assessment and career counselling for young people. Since October 2017, Ms. Camacho van den Hurk has been employed at the Dean’s Office of Mechanical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University as mentor and psychological counsellor.

Boldness Talks


2018 | Boldness