Dr. Sara Seager, Planetary Scientist and Astrophysicist
Professor Seager is an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT who has led groundbreaking research (as well as space instrumentation and missions) on the topic of exoplanet atmospheres. She is currently working on finding a true Earth twin. Seager earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University, was one of
Time magazine's “25 Most Influential in Space” in 2012, and was a 2013 MacArthur Fellow.
Dr. Hugh Herr, Biophysicist
Herr leads the Biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab and is developing bionic limbs that copy the functions of normal limbs. As a double amputee, he’s designed his own bionic legs that feature the first bionic foot and calf system, called BiOM. The award-winning professor was named the “Leader of the Bionic Age” by
Clayton Anderson, NASA Astronaut
Anderson was a member of the Expedition 15 crew and spent 152 days on board the International Space Station, followed by a large resupply mission to the International Space Station. Anderson has been not just to the lands beyond the atmosphere, but the world below the ocean’s surface; he worked as an aquanaut on the NEEMO 5 mission aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory.
Dr. Niall McCann, Explorer and TV Host
McCann is a true modern-day global explorer; he’s biked the Himalayas, climbed giant walls, rowed the Atlantic and canoed the Yukon River. As a conservationist and biologist, he’s explored remote parts of the globe on gripping expeditions. McCann hosted
National Geographic Wild’s “Biggest & Baddest,” which followed him and his adventures in exotic, dangerous locales.
Cassie Lee, Aerospace Engineer
Lee is currently a director at Vulcan Aerospace and has built up an impressive career as an aerospace engineer at Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser Space System, and propulsion engineer for NASA.
Dr. Anthony Paustian, Founder of ciWeek, Author and Educator
As the Provost of DMACC West, Paustian created a technology-focused college campus from scratch. He founded Celebrate! Innovation Week and is a publishing entrepreneur and founder of BookPress Publishing; Paustian has authored multiple books including his most recent
Beware the Purple People Eaters: A Personal Look at Leadership.
Dr. Reed Timmer, Meteorologist and Tornado Chaser
Timmer is an experienced, avid tornado chaser and trained meteorologist who has educated and informed as the host of Discovery Channel’s
Storm Chasers and the web series,
Homer Hickam, Best-Selling Author and Aerospace Engineer
After serving in the Vietnam War, Hickam returned home and worked as writer for various publications in addition to his main jobs as an engineer for the U.S. Army Missile Command and then as an aerospace engineer for NASA. His best-selling novel,
Rocket Boys: A Memoir, inspired the Universal Pictures film,
Emily Calandrelli, Aeronautics Engineer and Host of
Xploration Outer Space
With her background in aeronautics and engineering, Calandrelli is the talented producer and host of FOX’s
Xploration Outer Space. She’s a regular space industry writer for TechCrunch and is an avid speaker on topics that include scientific literacy and space exploration; she is passionate about inspiring females to pursue STEM careers.
Howard Berger, Emmy and Academy Award-Winning Makeup and Visual Effects Artist
Berger is an Academy Award and Emmy-winning makeup and visual effects artist who has worked on more than 200 films since 1977. Of his credits,
The Walking Dead and
The Chronicles of Narnia are among the most popular. He’s the co-founder of KNB EFX Group, which specializes in prosthetic make-up.
Scott Siepker, Actor and “Iowa Nice Guy”
Siepker, AKA “Iowa Nice Guy,” is comfortable both onstage and behind the camera as a producer, writer, comedian, filmmaker and actor; he co-founded Iowa Filmmakers.
Phil Hansen, Artist
A self-taught artist, Hansen perpetuates his unique style of art by embracing his personal and universal limitations through using unconventional materials and canvasses to create his pieces. He published a book in 2012,
Tattoo a Banana, and is a regular public speaker who challenges his audiences to spark their creativity by thinking “inside the box.”
Jon Wellner & David Berman, Actors and Owners of Entertainment Research
Veteran CSI actors (among other credits) Wellner and Berman serve as the co-presidents of Entertainment Research Consultants (ERC), which has provided critical research, data and information that is incorporated into the plots for more than 20 films and TV shows such as the
Mike Draper, Founder of RAYGUN
Draper is a Des Moines native and when he went off to college he started making and selling clever t-shirts. Returning to Des Moines, he brought his business back with him. Since RAYGUN’s opening in 2005, Draper’s business has only grown, expanded its headquarters in Des Moines’ East Village, and added two more locations in Cedar Rapids and Kansas City.
Dr. Salma Ghanem, Professor and Dean at DePaul University
Col. John Hinck, Retired Army Colonel and Author
Hinck is a retired U.S. Army Colonel with more than 22 years of military experience. Following his Army experience, he founded a leadership and organizational practices consultancy, Strength and Honor Solutions. Hinck is an avid public speaker, penned the book
Strength and Honor and teaches collegiate communication courses.
Deanne Bell, Engineer and TV Host
After earning a B.S. in mechanical engineering, designing mechanics for military aircraft and engineering CAD software, she became the co-host of the popular children’s show,
Design Squad. She’s also hosted shows on ESPN, Discovery Channel,
National Geographic, and DIY Network. On top of these credentials she founded Future Engineers in 2014 and serves on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation.
Dr. Gene Poor, Founder of LifeFormations and Professor of Entrepreneurship
Dr. Poor is an excellent representative of what it means to be an entrepreneur and educator. He brings 40 years of business experience from having founded entities that include multimedia software and popular restaurants to his role as Hamilton Professor of Entrepreneurship at Bowling Green State University. One of his more recent investments was in founding LifeFormations, a leading company in the creation and evolution of animatronics used in museums, theme parks and other venues.
Jessica Matthews & Julia Silverman, Co-founders of Uncharted Play
As the founders of Uncharted Play, Matthews and Silverman approach their social enterprise with a clear vision to disarm social hardships through inspiring playful, active lives. Uncharted Play designs and manufactures custom micro-generating systems that use kinetic energy to create power for other needs, such as charging a cell phone or powering a light bulb; the business partners with manufacturers to integrate into preexisting products. Uncharted Play has seen remarkable success and grew out of Matthews’ initial invention in Harvard Business School of the Soccket, a micro-generator soccer ball.
Adam Carroll, Author, Documentarist and Speaker
Carroll is an acclaimed speaker and writer of
The Money-Savvy Student and
Winning the Money Game, used in classrooms as a text for financial literacy. Carroll also wrote, produced and crowd-funded the documentary on student loan debt,
Broke, Busted, and Disgusted.
Mitch Matthews (Dream Coach and Author of “Ignite!”)
Matthews began the “BIG Dream Gathering” back in 2006 with just his family and friends, but since then it has evolved into something much greater in the form of a conference that Matthews and his team take to university campuses, conferences and community events. He’s also created a coach-training program and is hired to speak as an expert on coaching and workplace mentoring. You can read Matthews’ writing in the book,
Ignite!, and listen to him on his weekly podcast, “DREAM. THINK. DO.”
John Gaeta, Creative Director and Award-Winning Visual Effects Designer
As a creative director and visual effects designer, Gaeta turns the surreal and the magical into something that looks very real. His special effects work won an Academy Award for the
Matrix Trilogy. Gaeta’s focus is now dedicated to interactive media experimentation with tactics such as virtual cinema, sensor-based human interfaces and immersive theaters at Industrial Light & Magic’s xLab.
Fritz Maytag, Entrepreneur and Craft Brewing Pioneer
Maytag is a diversified food entrepreneur and considered a pioneer in the field of craft brewing. He’s the former owner of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company, founder and chairman of the board of Maytag Dairy Farms, and owner of York Creek Vineyards in California.
Mary Kay Shanley, Author
Shanley is a respected author with extensive experiences as a storyteller, essayist, journalist and historian. She has written 10 books across multiple genres and has been named an Iowa Author of the Year. Shanley inspires others’ creativity through sponsoring and directing writing groups and workshops.
Danny Beyer, Author and Keynote Speaker
Easily recognized by his signature bowtie, Beyer is an author of the book,
The Ties That Bind, and keynote speaker about connection-building and networking. He also co-founded the Bow Tie Ball in 2013, which has successfully raised tens of thousands of dollars for Young Variety charity.
Tom Eakin, Author and Cultural Expert
Former U.S. Army Officer Eakin founded BoomLife, LLC, and has worked with a diverse set of companies of all sizes to spur innovation, stimulate growth and create opportunities for profit in order to minimize the differences between the reality and the vision. Eakin authored
Finding Success: Get What You Really Want and developed his organizational-guiding GPS Theory.
Jason Kiesau, Author and Consultant
Kiesau is enlisted to work with established and emerging leaders across the country to help them master their “Success Skills.” He’s written three books including
FOCUSED—Your Future Starts Now, and is highly engaged in leadership and development organizations in his community.
Kevin Jorgeson, World-Renowned Rock Climber
In January 2015, Jorgeson stood atop El Capitan to mark the completion of a successful 19-day free-climb up the Dawn Wall of the Yosemite National Park 3,000-foot tall rock formation . . . it was one of the hardest rock climbs ever completed. The success was more than six years in the making as Jorgeson, along with climbing partner Tommy Caldwell, prepared, planned and imagined their way to the top of a dream that everyone else thought was impossible.
Alfred (Al) Worden, Apollo 15 Astronaut and Aerospace Engineer
Worden was an Air Force test pilot who became a two-time world record-holding astronaut for the first spacewalk in deep space and being the most isolated human from any other person. Both were achieved during his mission as Command Module Pilot on Apollo 15 in 1971. He is also in the small club of 24 people to have ever been to Earth’s moon.
Dan Gable, Olympic Gold Medalist and University of Iowa Wrestling Head Coach
A native Iowan, Gable achieved an unprecedented wrestling career with highlights to include a prep and collegiate collective record of 182–1 and a 1972 Olympic gold medal among many other national and world wins. Gable isn't just a champion athlete himself. As a successful coach, he has personally inspired hundreds of the athletes to achieve their best. As head wrestling coach at the University of Iowa, he led his team to 15 NCAA team titles. Gable also served as the Olympic head coach three times, and was a six-time World Team head coach. Gable made the list of ESPN's
Top 10 Coaches of All Time
Thomas Kenneth (Ken) Mattingly II, Apollo 16 Astronaut and Aerospace Innovator
Mattingly is not just an astronaut—he served as Command Module Pilot for Apollo 16 to Earth’s moon—but he's also an innovative engineer, responsible for the development of the lunar backpack and space suit. Mattingly’s leadership qualified him as Commander for the final orbital test flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia STS 4 and the first classified Department of Defense Space Shuttle mission. Mattingly was played by Gary Sinise in the movie,
Kaila Mullady, Beatbox Champion and Artist
Catch beatboxer and multi-instrumentalist Mullady in action, and you’re in for a one-of-a-kind, artistic performance that fuses beatboxing with poetry, rap, singing and theater. She’s the 2015 World Beatbox Champion among other well-deserved national competition titles. Based in NYC, Mullady teaches creative workshops across the country.
Greg Russell, Oscar-Nominated Sound Engineer
Russell is one of the most respected sound engineers in the film industry. He has worked on more than 200 films and numerous TV shows such as the
The Green Hornet,
National Treasure and
TheDaVinci Code. Russell has been nominated for 17 Academy Awards in the category of Best Sound and won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Film Sound Mixing in 1984.
Max Brooks, Best-Selling Author and “Zombie Expert”
The New York Times best-selling author has sparked readers to discuss how to better prepare for crises and discover solutions around emergency responses in an unconventional way . . . through zombie-themed fiction. His books,
The Zombie Survival Guide,
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and
The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks, have established Brooks as a “zombie expert” and propelled the zombie trend forward in pop culture.
Josh Gates is an archeologist, adventurer, television personality, and author. As host of the Travel Channel Series
Expedition Unknown, Gates takes viewers around the world on thrilling investigations of everything from Amelia Earhart’s disappearance to a search for the Ark of the Covenant or lost Incan cities to a hunt in Siberia for Mammoth tusks to be used for DNA cloning. He has also hosted
Destination Truth and
Ghost Hunters Live, shows where the paranormal, remote corners of the planet, and a search for the Yeti are among his daring and entertaining expeditions.
Jonathan Frakes is an actor, author, and director, best known for his role as Commander William T. Riker in the television series
Star Trek: The Next Generation, a role he also played in several films. Recent directing credits include:
Star Trek: Discovery on CBS and the new Fox dramedy starring Seth McFarlane called
The Orville. Frakes can be heard as the narrator on the animated series Marvel’s
Guardians of the Galaxy.
Jill Heinerth is a diver, adventurer, and sea hero. Heinerth has explored deep underwater caves, never-before-seen ecosystems, and the inside of Antarctic icebergs. The Hall of Fame diver encourages audiences to challenge the unknown and overcome fears. Heinerth, who has received awards shared by other underwater greats as Jacques Cousteau and Robert Ballard, was named a “Living Legend” by
Sport Diver Magazine.
Kenny Aronoff is one of the world’s most influential and in-demand drummers.
Rolling Stone Magazine named Aronoff one of the 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time. He’s spent 17 years with John Mellencamp playing the unforgettable tumble that leads into the chorus of
Jack and Diane. He’s also kept the beat for The Rolling Stones, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and many more. His presentations include live performances, entertaining anecdotes from his rock star life, and tips for success.
Rob Manning is the chief engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) Engineering and Science Directorate. He has been designing, testing, operating, and managing robotic spacecraft for over 35 years including Galileo to Jupiter, Cassini to Saturn, Magellan to Venus, and Pathfinder and Curiosity to Mars. Manning has received four NASA medals, is in the
Aviation Week Magazine
Space Laureate Hall of Fame at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, has received two honorary PhDs, and has a minor planet named after him.
James Barrat is an author and filmmaker. His book
Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era started a national conversation about the dangers of artificial intelligence. His films provoke viewers to think about the machines whose intelligence could overtake our own and if we can rely on their “kindness” to survive.
Gabor George Burt
Gabor George Burt is an internationally recognized expert in innovation, creativity, and strategy development. The sought-after speaker is author of
Slingshot: Re-Imagine Your Business, Re-Imagine Your Life and many other books on successful growth strategies.
Dr. David Gallo
Dr. David Gallo is the world's leading expert on ocean exploration. He was one of the first scientists to use robots and submarines to explore the deep sea floor. He was co-leader of the successful international effort to find the wreck site of the Air France 447. He co-lead an exploration of
RMS Titanic and the German Battleship
Bismark. His TED presentation,
Underwater Astonishments, has more than 8 million views.
Nathalia Holt is a science writer and the
New York Times bestselling author of
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including
The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Popular Science, and Time.
Dr. Jill Pruetz
Dr. Jill Pruetz is a professor and primatologist. Her studies of non-human primates such as chimpanzees, spider monkeys, and howling monkeys have led her to conduct fieldwork in Peru, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Kenya, and Senegal. Supported by the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation, Pruetz focuses her research on the influence of ecology on primates and the implications her findings might have on early human feeding and social behavior.
Rod Pyle is an author, journalist, both historian and futurist, and filmmaker. He has written 11 books on space history, exploration and development, including
Innovation the NASA Way
. Pyle has also produced, directed and written several episodes for History Channel’s
as well as a documentary for History Channel entitled,
Beyond the War of the Worlds
Rob Wolfe is a lifelong “picker” of antiques and original paint cars and trucks. He is the brother of Mike Wolfe, of History Channel’s hit reality show
. Rob can often be seen on the show traveling the country and digging through old barns and garages looking for what he calls, “rusty gold.”