photo courtesy Research Triangle Park Foundation

“We wanted to create a platform for people of all professions to share what they’re working on and the innovations happening in various realms.”  

–Anna Rhyne, coordinator of monthly RTP180 talks at The Frontier

by Jessie Ammons

Debate, fashion, women in business, nanotech-nology, gaming. These are among topics discussed each month at RTP180, Research Triangle Park’s version of a local TED-conference-meets-happy-hour. Offered up as a time to “partake of free beer and smarts,” the Thursday evening gatherings begin with local beer on tap at The Frontier, RTP’s free coworking space. Then, five Triangle residents give a brief 5-minute talk on a changing monthly theme. Past themes include AgBio, sports, gene-environment interaction, sustainability; next, on April 20, they’ll do smart cities. “There’s so much talent here in the area, and it covers a wide range of topics,” says Anna Rhyne, programs manager at RTP and one of the event’s founders. “We wanted to tap into that on a regular basis to showcase the great work that’s happening.”

The gathering has been a hit: There are 350 free tickets available each month (you reserve a ticket in advance online) and they usually fill up in a matter of days, Rhyne says. “We almost always have a waiting list.” Many attendees are RTP employees, but many more are not. “The audience runs the gamut. It’s people of all ages working in all different sectors – technology, agriculture, communications, you name it. It’s got a broad reach.”

Rhyne says RTP180 is mutually beneficial: Often, speakers appreciate the opportunity to boil down the complex concepts they’re working on to an eager, diverse crowd. “People latch on and understand what they do, and the feedback is that it’s really rewarding.”