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DMACC announces speakers for 2021 Celebrate! Innovation series

DMACC has announced the presenters for this year’s Celebrate! Innovation 12 (ciLive! 12) annual speaker series, which will be held virtually March 10-11 and is celebrating its 12th anniversary in 2021. The series is free and open to all and will livestream all speaker presentations via e360tv, YouTube and Facebook Live.

This year’s presenters include a NASA astronaut, a leading oceanographer and deep-water explorer, a top wilderness survivalist and History Channel star, a classical violinist turned innovative composer, a world-renowned primatologist and wildlife correspondent for the National Geographic Channel, ghost hunters featured on the Discovery Network, and more.

“We’re thrilled to continue Celebrate! Innovation in 2021, with an inspiring line-up of speakers set to join us virtually from around the globe,” said ciLive! founder and DMACC West Campus Provost Dr. Anthony Paustian. “This series has grown so much over the years, and it continues to expand and inspire, thanks to the generous support of sponsors and because of the great response we’ve received from DMACC students, the Greater Des Moines community, residents throughout Central Iowa and beyond.”

ciLive! has been hosted by the DMACC West Campus in West Des Moines since the event’s inception in 2010. This year’s ciLive! theme is “Amplified” and focuses on the exciting and different ways we can all amplify innovation through creative thinking and collaboration.

The following speakers will be featured during ciLive! 12:

Dr. Sian Proctor is a geoscientist, analog astronaut, space artist, speaker and solar system ambassador. Her motto – Space2inspire – is designed to encourage people to use their unique, one-of-a-kind strengths and passion to inspire those within their reach and beyond. Dr. Proctor has completed four analog astronaut missions, including the all-female SENSORIA Mars 2020 mission at the Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Habitat, the NASA funded, four-month Mars mission at HI-SEAS, a two-week Mars mission at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), and a two week Moon mission in the LunAres Habitat. She believes that when we solve for space, we also solve issues on Earth, and she also promotes sustainable food practices used in space exploration as a way to reduce food waste on Earth. Dr. Proctor has a TEDx talk called “Eat Like a Martian” and has published a “Meals for Mars” cookbook.

Dr. David Gallo, who will be making his third appearance at ciLive!, is one of the world’s leading experts on exploration, and an unabashed ambassador between the sea and those of us on dry land. A premier oceanographer and explorer, he was one of the first scientists to use robots and submarines to explore the deep sea floor. Most recently he co-led an expedition to create the first detailed and comprehensive map of the RMS Titanic, and he co-led the successful international effort to locate the remains of Air France Flight 447. He has given more than 10 TED and TEDx presentations, and has appeared in numerous documentaries and as a featured guests on a variety of national news programs. Dr. Gallo’s presentation will illustrate how lessons we can learn from the ocean can help our efforts in space exploration and settlement.

Nikki van Schyndel is one of North America’s top wilderness survivalists, as well as a best-selling author and star of the self-filming, survival show “Alone” on the History Channel. She also tested her skills by spending a year and a half surviving in the wilderness, using primitive ways of the past such as trapping and spearing bears, fishing with bone hooks and hunting with stone-tipped arrows. She recounts the adventure in her best-selling memoir, “Becoming Wild.” Today, she lives off-the-grid on an island in the middle of nowhere, in a log cabin she built herself from a how-to book, with her “how hard can it be” motto leading the way.

Kyle Hill is a science educator and communicator who says no question is too nerdy. His work has been published in “WIRED,” “Popular Science,” “Slate” and “The Boston Globe.” He has also appeared as an expert on Fox News, Al Jazeera America, BBC World Service, Huffington Post Live and the Science Channel, and has held writing positions at “Scientific American” and “Discover Magazine.” In 2016, Hill hosted “MythBusters: The Search” on the Science Channel, which was the highest-rated show on the network that year. Hill also created the popular online science show “Because Science,” which garnered over 300 million views over its lifetime and gained 1,000,000 subscribers in just 15 months. His latest venture is “The Facility,” a new channel that garnered 100,000 subscribers in just five days.

Kai Kight is a classical violinist turned innovative composer who uses music as a metaphor to inspire individuals and organizations across the world to compose paths of imagination and fulfillment. In his emotionally powerful presentations, Kight performs mesmerizing original music and shares stories from his own transformation as an artist. Kight translates these insights into takeaways that audiences can easily infuse into their own lives and work environments. As a musician, Kight has performed his original music for thousands in venues across the world, from the White House to the Great Wall of China. As a speaker, he has created impactful experiences for audiences at conferences, companies and universities internationally. His clients include The Walt Disney Company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

Dr. Mireya Mayor is a world-renowned primatologist, explorer and Emmy Award-nominated wildlife correspondent for the National Geographic Channel. Dr. Mayor’s adventures have taken her — armed with little more than a backpack, notebooks and hiking boots — to some of the wildest and most remote places on earth. Hailed as a “female Indiana Jones” and as an inspiration to young women who are interested in science and exploration, she has survived poisonous insect bites, been charged by gorillas and chased by elephants, and keeps going back for more. Her latest project is Travel Channel’s hit series, “Expedition Bigfoot,” and her signature book, “Pink Boots and a Machete,” continues to thrill readers around the world.

Gabor George Burt is an internationally recognized expert in innovation, creativity and strategy development, and the author of the book “Slingshot: Re-Imagine Your Business, Re-Imagine Your Life.” Burt was a leading expert of Blue Ocean Strategy, the new millennium’s most influential business strategy approach. He contributed case study material to the worldwide, best-selling book of the same name and also originated the most popular blog on the topic. Burt is actively involved in shaping strategy for a diverse group of international clients, ranging from top multinationals and governments to start-ups and NGOs. He has given the opening presentation at the World Marketing Forum, and was the architect and host of the Forum for Partnership in the Americas, a gathering of business and government leaders.

The Ghost Brothers, which include best friends Dalen Spratt, Juwan Mass and Marcus Harvey, are considered Atlanta’s premier ghost-hunting team. The trio’s first show, “Ghost Brothers,” ran on Destination America/TLC for two seasons. Their current show, “Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests,” appears on the Travel Channel, and blends comedy with a straightforward approach to the paranormal. They will discuss their tagline, “It’s time to pop the trunk on these ghosts,” in more detail at ciLive! 12.

The Nielsen Trust is a band featuring famed guitarist and songwriter Rick Nielsen from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band, Cheap Trick, and members of his talented family. This includes his son, Daxx Nielsen, who plays drums for Cheap Trick, and another son, Miles Nielsen, who has his own successful project, Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts. Miles’ wife, Kelly Steward, is also a singer and songwriter. While they have all jammed together at various times in the past, the performers became a group in 2019, debuting at the Castle Theatre in Bloomington, Ill. The band now performs all over the country, and Cheap Tricks songs are a large part of the band’s repertoire.

A detailed schedule of this year’s speakers will be released in early March.

The speaker descriptions listed above have been provided by DMACC.

DMACC announces speakers for 2021 Celebrate! Innovation series | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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