Orlando nerds convene for night of thinking, drinking
Once a month, Orlando residents thirsty for knowledge and a few drinks convene at The Geek Easy bar in Winter Park to listen to local speakers lead presentations on a topic of their choice.
The event is Orlando's take on an internationally recognized occasion known as Nerd Nite, an evening of thinking and drinking.
Currently, there are more than 94 separate Nerd Nites across the world, from Berlin to Los Angeles, and while most charge admission to enter, the Orlando event invites the public to attend for free as a service to the community and to promote learning.
Ricardo Williams, chief media officer of I.D.E.A.S, a club founded at UCF, has been the sole Nerd Boss for Nerd Nite Orlando for the past year while his partner, Josh Manning, has been out of state for work.
Through Nerd Nite, Williams said he seeks to promote the idea that learning is fun.
"If you can break down and dissect anything in the world and the audience can walk away having learned something new, and maybe with an extra pint in their systems, then you have the makings of a Nerd Nite talk," said Williams.
The topics discussed range from time travel to robotics, and have no limits as long as speakers can break down the science and present it entertainingly in 20 minutes, he said.
One of his favorite talks was from a vexillophile, a person who admires flags. She gave a talk about the history of famous flags and why they looked a certain way, and Williams said the audience loved it.
Junior biology major Emily Dovydaitis gave a talk for a Valentine's Day-themed Nerd Nite last February about the meaning of flowers in the Victorian era.
"Flower meanings were a really big sort of cultural pastime," she said. "Say I had an admirer and he gave me a bouquet of flowers, it was my job to decipher the meaning by consulting the flowers. Basically, you can tell someone 'I love you,' 'I hate you,' 'You make me jealous,' 'I want to declare war on you,' just through a single flower or a group of flowers."
To loosen the crowd, Dovydaitis brought flowers to give to the audience and encouraged them to bop their neighbor on the head if they were talking during her presentation.
She will be presenting another talk at the upcoming Nerd Nite, which will be themed as "Ladies Nite" — though not the sort of Ladies Nite you might have seen at local bars.
"The drinks are definitely not free," he said.
Instead, the night will celebrate women and their advancements in the professional world.
Elizabeth Phillips, a doctoral graduate student, came to UCF with a "try everything" mentality. Speaking at Nerd Nite was just one of the ways Phillips said she was expanding her horizons.
Phillips' research on robotics initially prompted her to lead a talk on the future of human relationships with robots.
Her talk was so well received that the Nerd Bosses selected her to represent Orlando at the Nerd Nite Global festival held in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution's annual The Future Is Here festival.
"The gentleman I was sitting next to was the curator for all plant fossils at the Smithsonian," Phillips said. "I had no idea. We were talking about something random like Google Maps and I leaned over and said, 'Oh what do you do?' And he said, 'Oh fossils, no big deal.' And then after lunch, he was the next speaker."
To be an interesting person, you have to do interesting things, and Nerd Nite is a way to do exactly that, Phillips said.
What: Nerd Nite Orlando: Gaming & Space Nite
When: August 13 at 7 p.m.
Where: Orlando Science Center
Cost: Free admission
Amelia Truong is a Digital Producer at the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Ameliatruong or email her at AmeliaT@CentralFloridaFuture.com