Ken Jennings

Ken Jennings
All-Time 'Jeopardy!' Champion

Ken Jennings was born in 1974 just outside Seattle, Washington, but grew up overseas. His family spent 15 years in Korea and Singapore, where his father worked as an attorney. His only lifeline to American pop culture during those years was TV on the Armed Forces Network, where he watched Jeopardy! religiously after school every afternoon. 

He ultimately moved back to the States attended college and was working as a software engineer for a Salt Lake City healthcare staffing company in 2004, when he received a phone call telling him that his contestant audition had been successful and he would appear on a June game of Jeopardy! He spent a month making flash cards and cramming on familiar Jeopardy! subjects like US presidents, world capitals, and “potent potables.” 

Much to his surprise, his Jeopardy! appearance extended beyond a single game in June: Jennings took advantage of a recent rule change allowing Jeopardy! champions to appear on the show indefinitely, and spent the next six months hogging America’s TV screens. Before losing on the November 30th show because he didn’t know enough about H&R Block, Jennings won 74 games and $2.52 million, both American game show records. 

The streak made Jennings a 2004 TV folk hero, and he appeared as a guest on shows including The Tonight Show, The Late Show with David Letterman, Good Morning America, Live with Regis and Kelly, and Sesame Street.

Following his Jeopardy! streak, Jennings’s product endorsements have included FedEx, Microsoft Encarta, Allstate, the ever-present Cingular ad, and even his one-time nemesis H&R Block. He speaks about the importance of learning at college campuses and corporate events, and has co-invented two trivia games: the Can You Beat Ken?board game from University Games and Quizzology, a CD trivia game from Major Games. He has released the book Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, about his bizarre Jeopardy! adventures and about the phenomenon of trivia in American culture, as well as Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks, a book about the allure of geography. His latest book is Because I Said So: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids. 

On February 14, 2011, Jennings challenged “Watson”—an IBM computer designed to beat humans at Jeopardy!—along with fellow grand champion Brad Rutter. Every Friday, Jennings writes a quiz based on the previous week’s events for Slate magazine. Also, his “Kennections” trivia puzzle is featured most weekends in Parade, the popular Sunday newspaper magazine, with additional puzzles appearing every week on

James McLurkin

James McLurkin
Roboticist, Inventor, Researcher & Teacher

As a child, James McLurkin was constantly building with LEGO bricks, cardboard boxes, or any other materials he could access. Today, he continues this tradition using Mother Nature as a model, researching and developing algorithms and techniques for constructing and programming large swarms of autonomous robots.

A leader in the field of robotics, McLurkin is an assistant professor at Rice University in the Department of Computer Science. His research focuses on developing distributed algorithms for multi-robot systems, which are software that produce complex group behaviors from the interactions of many simple individuals. These ideas are not new: ants, bees, wasps, and termites have been running this type of software for 120 million years. His research group has one of the largest collections of robots in the world, with over 200 robots in use. The SwarmBots were originally created during McLurkin’s five-year tenure as lead research scientist at iRobot, one of the world’s leading robotics companies, and were the largest swarm in the world at the time.

Soraya Chemlay

Soraya Chemaly, recently named Director of the WMC Speech Project, is an award-winning feminist writer, media critic and activist whose work focuses on women's rights and the role of gender in media, politics, religion, technology and popular culture. She is a frequently called upon expert in the relationship between representation, freedom of expression, violence and gender. Prior to writing, Soraya worked in the data and media industries for more than 15 years.  She serves on the boards of The Women's Media Center; Women, Action and The Media, In this Together Media, Common Sense Media and FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture.


Zeynep Tufekci

Dr. Zeynep Tufekci is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science and an adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology. She is also a fellow at the Center for Information Technology at Princeton University and a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She received her Ph.D. and Master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and holds a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Istanbul University, Turkey and an undergraduate degree in computer science from Bosphorus University, Turkey. She worked professionally as a programmer before returning to academia. Her research interests are social impacts of technology, privacy and surveillance, inequality, research methods and complex systems. She writes regularly at her personal site:


Dr. Zeynep Tufekci - One of the 100 Most Influential Tech People on Twitter

There are those who communicate only through Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, and then there are those who use e-mail and face-to-face encounters to communicate. For one who specializes on all things to do with social media, Dr. Zeynep Tufekci, assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, uses various means of communicating - including Twitter. She tweets about her popular blog, which has now gained her inclusion on the "100 Most Influential Tech People on Twitter." 

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