The tipping point

“I remember a moment from childhood that changed my life forever. I was in Science 9, a high school freshman year science class, preparing for another boring, curriculum-based lesson, when suddenly the teacher said: ‘Put away your books.

Today’s Space Day, so we’re going to talk about space’. He then proceeded to tell us about the Cassini-Huygens project – a mission to study Saturn – which was about to make its second Venus flyby. As the topic trailed off into all sorts of space missions, I remember my sense of awe as the teacher discussed various missions, like the space shuttle and ISS. How could science missions be so cool, I wondered. The teacher then asked who of us wanted to do our final report on a space mission. I practically jumped out of my chair, thinking mine would be one of a sea of hands, only to find mine was the only one raised.

After that day I went from being a disinterested, C+ student in science to a straight-A space freak, enrolling in more physics and math classes — subjects I’d previously hated — because they all made sense now: science was connected to a real, unbelievably interesting world out there that I absolutely had to explore. I went on to study astrophysics and aerospace engineering in university, ending up where I am now. I sometimes wonder how different my life might’ve been had my teacher decided to just teach the planned curriculum-based lesson that day?

It’s odd how little things can inspire us and change our lives in dramatic ways. People are inspired by books, speeches, deeds…things so negligently brief compared to lifetimes they affect. Every big thinker in history was inspired by a person or event that ended up shaping who they were.

Many events can be inspirational or influential over the course of a lifetime; however, most people with clearly defined goals can pinpoint a single tipping point moment when they made a decision that forever changed the course of their lives. The question is: is that tipping point an unexpected life-altering experience, or simply a culmination of preceding events?

Events like TED conferences are intended to share ideas and inspire others, and TEDxDelft, held last Monday in the Aula, was just that: 21 speakers sharing their amazing stories, experiences, and ideas, which were received with standing ovations from the packed auditorium. Some people left the auditorium literally speechless: a guy next to me was breathless as he tried to articulate one of the many ideas he’d gotten from the conference, and most people I met afterwards were enthusiastic about sharing their future plans with random strangers. Some even called the event life-changing.

But what makes an event a life-changing experience? I couldn’t help thinking that in a few weeks time the excitement will die down, along with many of the ideas born at the conference. That’s because listening to inspiring stories alone isn’t enough; rather, it’s the changing — the action the individual must take — that makes inspiring experiences life-changing. Dreams will simply continue being dreams unless you act on them.”

Olga Motsyk is an MSc aerospace engineering student from Kiev, Ukraine. She can be reached at olgamotsyk@gmail.com 

Name: Gunjan Singh (MSc Industrial Design Engineering)
Brand: Union
Price: 60 euros
Striking Feature: Handlebars that have a mind of their own

“Gunjan didn’t have a tough time trying to choose a bike. “When I reached Kringloop Winkel secondhand shop there was just one bike left, and I badly wanted a bike to survive here,” she says, adding that biking is a much more pleasurable way of getting exercise than jogging. “While jogging, you might occasionally slow down and then start walking, but while you’re on a bike you only stop when you’ve reached your destination.” And what Gunjan thinks is the worst feature of her bike also happens to be a great feature, she says: “My bike’s seat has no cushion, making it a little uncomfortable to ride, but the seat never really gets wet either, so I don’t complain.” Her bike has been faithful in getting her safely all the way to Rotterdam once, and also for a shopping trip to Den Haag, despite her ever-reluctant handle bars, which refused to be controlled. And her bike lights that work on the dynamo also stop working every time it rains. “I now have two LEDs that look like mice, just in case my dynamo lights stop working in front of a cop!” she says, smiling. While some may buy a U-lock to attach the frame of the bike to something solid, others prefer to paint their bikes as garishly as possible to keep thieves away. Wary as she naturally is, Gunjan has two locks for her bike and always makes sure she parks her bike properly in the bike stalls.

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