Haven for the modern nerd
It’s like TED Talks, but on the rocks and totally local. Almost. If there happens to be a fantastically interesting individual coming through town, Edmonton Nerd Nite organizers will do their best to snag them for an opportune segment in one of their monthly events.
If you’re nerdy enough, you’ve likely already heard of Nerd Nite, the global phenomena for adults that makes learning anything fun. Each event is hosted in a bar with three unique ‘nerds’ giving presentations on anything imaginable, from the microbiology behind charcuterie to Disney magic, the genius of Wilhelm Reich, insights into modern journalism, vaccines, approaching art spaces and even weeds.
It’s currently being organized in more than 90 cities around the world and Edmonton has it’s own chapter, founded back in 2012 by Adam Rozenhart and Wade Kelly. But these days, a modern nerd is far from the stereotyped individual with glasses and a pocket protector.
“It’s just someone who’s extremely passionate about a particular subject or topic and can go on and on about it, and knows the extreme, fine details about it,” Rozenhart says. “These interesting people who are very passionate about what they do and very, very fascinating too.”
Kelly studied education with a focus on communication in the science world and moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2014 where he’s pursuing a PhD. He was one of the presenters for his final Nerd Nite and gave a 20-minute talk all about the craftsmanship behind terrazzo floors, simply because it’s something that fascinates him.
“What we try to do is have something very sciency, something very artsy, and something out of left field,” Rozenhart says of the areas that come to light at Nerd Nite, but as for specific topics, “the sky’s the limit.”
At Nerd Nite #2, a woman named Lauren Albrecht presented on reconceptualizing sexual education for adults. She’s the one person who’s attended every single Nerd Nite in Edmonton, and following Kelly’s departure a few years ago, stepped in as Rozenhart co-organizer. The events have been getting bigger and better ever since.
Nerd Nite’s original home was a space in the Citadel Theatre, but as demand from patrons grew, the room needed to as well. The regularly sold-out evenings now happen at The Needle Vinyl Tavern on Jasper Avenue where up to 220 people can be accommodated between the main room and the “peanut gallery,” a bar space to one side where guests can listen to presenters and watch them on television screens, because things do get physical. Dr. John Davis, who studies cold physics at the University of Alberta, is a perfect example.
“What was really cool about his presentation was that he brought a tank of liquid nitrogen with him and was kind of dumping it all over everything, including his scotch that night, which was pretty funny,” says Rozenhart.
Next week, Nerd Nite #34: Death, taxes, exercise and books (oh my!) will be the second last installation of the season, finally wrapping with #35 in May. Taking the stage next Wednesday will be Laurel Deedrick-Mayne talking about self-publishing, Chris Tse exploring technology and fitness, and economics major and marketing pro Heather Watson who will be dissecting tax free savings accounts and why they aren’t working. She volunteers with the Economic Society of Northern Alberta helping to educate Albertans on economic issues and met Albrecht for coffee one day to discuss potential speakers from the finance world.
“At the end of the conversation, [Lauren] asked, ‘So, what do you care about?’ And I ranted for like 20 minutes about tax free savings accounts. I was like, ‘Tax policy, actually,’” says Watson, and just like that, she was slotted for the stage.