Marlon West

Marlon West, head of Effects Animation for Frozen 2, Frozen and Moana, is among the speakers at the 2020 Prepare.ai Conference.

The 2020 Prepare.ai Conference, scheduled over 5 afternoons during the month of October and featuring more than 60 nationally-known AI and technology thought leaders, will be free and open to all for the first time. A handful of sponsors and founders have underwritten the entire cost of the conference in order to allow anyone, whether a middle-school student or a Fortune 25 CEO, to attend at no cost.

This year’s content is divided into five themed afternoons: a Workforce Development Forum on Thursday, October 1; Our Planet and Beyond, focusing on precision agriculture and geospatial technologies on Wednesday October 7; Health & Wellbeing on Wednesday October 14; AI@Work&Home on Wednesday October 21; and Societal Implications & Ethical Impact on Thursday, October 28.

Speakers include Marlon West, head of Effects Animation for Frozen 2, Frozen and Moana; 2016 TED-Prize winner and space archaeologist Sarah Parcak; National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Dr. Stacey Dixon; Ranveer Chandra, chief scientist of Microsoft Azure Global; and Chris Sakalosky, managing director of Healthcare & Life Sciences for Google.

Prepare, co-founded by David Karandish and Chris Sims of Answers.com along with Prepare’s Technical Director Dave Costenaro, aims to increase awareness of, access to, and collaboration around AI and other technologies in order to advance the human experience.

“We happen to be headquartered in a region that thrived in the first and second industrial revolutions and got left behind in the third,” said Prepare CoFounder David Karandish.

“We believe that the region cannot afford to let that happen again. The conference is one way that we can bring people together around big ideas, grow partnerships within the community and beyond, and lay groundwork to ensure that St. Louis’ role in the new tech-driven economy is as a leader, not a follower.”

The Prepare Conference was originally an in-person, 1,000-person event to be held in late April, but pivoted to virtual when the coronavirus pandemic hit. The in-person conference was always going to include a free component called the Workforce Development Forum, sponsored by Daugherty Business Solutions and the support of all sponsors.

“We’d been working on this programming with an incredible committee of volunteers since the fall,” said Prepare board member Andy Sweet, VP of Product Engineering and Innovation at Daugherty Business Solutions.

“Then COVID hit, and all of the issues that we were already talking about – how social determinants of health can impact an entire region’s ability to thrive; how we absolutely must broaden the tech talent pipeline to include more women and people of color –

became even more top-of-mind. The fact that we can now open up not just that programming, but all of our programming, to the audiences that deserve it most, is really exciting.”

Prepare’s Executive Director Cindy Teasdale said there is a “silver lining” to losing the live touch events.

“The silver lining in losing the ability to gather in person this year is the fact that we can now open the room to anyone who’s interested in learning more about AI,” she said, “versus a thousand people who have the time and resources to gather in person in St. Louis.”

Prepare’s first Annual Conference was in 2018 at the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Washington University in St. Louis Medical School Campus, where 350 tech and AI enthusiasts gathered to hear from 30 speakers from organizations including IBM Watson, Amazon Web Services, and NVIDIA. The 2019 Conference sold out 550 tickets and hosted 60 speakers.

Sponsors of this year’s Conference include 1904 Labs, Bayer, and Daugherty Business Solutions at the Platinum level, and Capacity, Centene Corporation, Object Computing and the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis at the Gold level.

For more information, visit https://prepare.ai. Follow Prepare on Twitter @Prepare_Ai, Facebook /prepareAi and LinkedIn @prepare.ai.

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