Get Your Geek On
Orlando’s nerd culture blooms with help from nightly local events.
Thanks to a few cerebral celebrations, Orlando, dubbed “Nerdlando” by some area intellectuals, is gradually becoming a place where being smart is cool. At monthly events around the city, geeks—and non-geeks—are gathering to drink beer and share ideas, all in the name of intellectual stimulation. Check out some of these brainy affairs:
Nerd Nite Orlando
Techies and neo-hippies alike gather under the kaleidoscope of paper lanterns inside Stardust Video & Coffee to enjoy Tater Tots and hummus and learn about everything from telekinesis to growing plants in space. “It’s Discovery Channel with beer,” says “Nerd Boss” Josh Manning, who started the free event in March. He invites local scientists and environmentalists to deliver 20-minute presentations to the group, which gathers on the second Thursday of each month. “It’s a delicate balance between introducing esoteric topics but making them digestible for someone who would never know about them otherwise,” says Manning. “There is no intellectual elitism at Nerd Nite.” The next event is on September 12.
Started by Dave and Jenny Casey, these free screenings of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talks bring together intellectuals young and old on the third Thursday of every month at Taste in College Park. After voting from a list of five curated videos, the crowd enjoys a few drinks while watching two 18-minute talks followed by lively dialogue in smaller groups. “People are hungry for a chance to discuss ideas that go beyond work and sports and what’s on TV,” Dave Casey says. “There are a lot of smart people here in Orlando, and I think this event gives them permission to be themselves.” On October 12, the group will hold its annual TEDxOrlando event at the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, where more than 200 people will gather to watch talks on subjects ranging from “The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity…” to “A guerrilla gardener in South Central LA.” The next event is on September 19.
The Hive unites attendees with environmental leanings who want to talk ecology, waste removal and green energy.
Dubbed a “think/do tank” by creators Chris Castro and Clayton Ferrara, The Hive debuted at Urban ReThink earlier this year as a way for residents to learn about issues addressing the local environment and beyond—and then actually do something about it. Most of the dozen or so attendees hail from local universities, and the free event attracts an array of people with environmental leanings. “We’re working together to make a cross-cultural push that bridges the gap in the community for action and gives people the chance to meet up and team up,” says Castro, who focuses each meeting on a specific theme, such as food or energy. The Hive’s first meetings were focused on ecology, resulting in a Wekiva River clean-up trip attended by 40 people who spent the day canoeing and removing waste and invasive species. “The Hive is a bit like a Speakeasy for innovation,” Castro says. The next event is on September 4.
Originated in Tokyo, PechaKucha nights have spread to more than 600 cities around the world with their highly standardized presentation formats giving speakers just six minutes and 40 seconds to convey their message with the help of 20 PowerPoint slides that automatically transition every 20 seconds. “Ten people get up in a row with minimal introduction and really disparate topics, but the format is the same for every speaker; they’re all trying to get through 20 slides,” says Eddie Selover, who co-founded PechaKucha Orlando in 2010. Nearly 300 attendees, each paying the $10 admission fee, pile into The Orange Studio quarterly to hear about everything from economics to mermaid camp. “It’s almost like an athletic event; the format gives it a bit of tension, in a good way,” Selover says. “But the audience is really rooting for these speakers.” The next event is on September 20.