STEM Ed Toys of the Future!
BYB’s adventures at Toy Fair 2018
Toy Fair is one of the largest gatherings of toy manufacturers, distributors, and buyers in the world, and in 2018, we threw our hat into the ring! We’ve been at this whole DIY Neuroscience thing in an educational space for almost 9 years, and we thought it was about time to test the waters in the consumer market, and Toy Fair was a great opportunity to do just that: we were in the room with giants like Hasbro and ThinkFun, learning how we could improve the toy factor of our science kits. Our table was situated in the “Launchpad” section of the conference where other companies new to Toy Fair were also showing off their offerings! (Will got a sneak peek at some of the hot new STEM Ed games hitting the shelves this year during his wanderings–just you wait for Killer Snails the Card Game!)
We did a lot of demos, we did presentations for press, and we did what we could to spread the good word: Neuroscience is here, it’s important, and it’s fun! A few local news stations featured us, helping amplify our voice. We demoed some new prototypes, and our stalwart Human-Human Interface was popular as usual. We were in new territory and a lot of people had never heard of us before, so it was a great opportunity to build new relationships and attract new attention.
Zach, our Development Engineer, said, “I enjoyed demoing to people who had never seen our kits before but are part of increasing the amount of STEM education tools. We received a lot of great feedback from others in the industry about their experiences and issues that we can avoid. It was also great to test out some of our new/updated products that we are developing.” Zach’s newest developments include the Neuron SpikerBox Pro and Muscle SpikerBox Pro, as well as the Plant SpikerBox, his little leafy baby.
His partner in crime at Toy Fair 2018 was Will, our resident Outreach Coordinator, poet, and maker of schpiels. He’s been getting people to roll their sleeves up for science for a long time now. He said of the show, “I’m pretty used to explaining our work to educators and scientists, so Toy Fair was a totally new experience. I wasn’t sure how non-scientists would react to the gear, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that everyone loved the kits and wanted to try them for themselves! It was exciting to show so many people, for the first time in their lives, real neuroscience experiments and recordings from their brains and nervous systems!”
Toy Fair was a big success for us. We tried on a toymaker’s hat to see if it fit, and who knows what the future will bring?
We’re excited to announce the Backyard Brains will be featured in an episode of “Mind Field,” a YouTube Red original series created by the famous math and science YouTuber, Vsauce!
If you aren’t familiar with Vsauce, definitely give his youtube channel a look! He has become a staple of online science education, as his YouTube videos are created to break down and explain complex ideas in a relatable and almost comedic manner. His new show, Mind Field, dives into the world of human psychology, perception, cognition, and neuroscience. Sounds like our kind of show!
Which is why we were so amped when our co-founder Tim Marzullo traveled to sunny Los Angeles to visit and film at the YouTube production studio! Our very own little slice of neuroscience education would now be exposed to the masses! (Cue mad scientist laughter.) Arriving early in the morning with his trusty toolbox packed full of neuroscience experiments, Tim got right to work filming with Michael Stevens (creator of Vsauce), Alie Ward (TV Science Personality), and the production team at the YouTube studio.
Tim explains, “It was a really novel experience. The only other film shoots I’ve been a part of had small crews and were done ‘semi-live,’ where we only had one or two takes to get something to work. For this episode, we spent all day filming just two experiments, and a lot of work went into each. We would reshoot each take several times, making sure everything turned out beautifully on camera, and refining our script so the descriptions were tight and entertaining. There were ~20 people on the Mind Field crew, so it was really a cool experience to be a part of a high-budget, professional shoot.”
Season 2, Episode 8: The Electric Brain was just dropped this month, and we were so excited to see the fruits of Tim’s trip. It is a YouTube Red show, so you’ll need a subscription to YouTube to see it, but believe us when we tell you that it will be worth it. No spoilers for the show, so we don’t want to say which of our experiments are appearing, but what we can tell you is that they are two of our more provocative experiments…
The Consumer Electronics Show floods Las Vegas annually with nearly 200,000 visitors and exhibitors, and for the first time, Backyard Brains joined the likes of Intel, Google, IBM, and other giants by attending as exhibitors and hosting our own booth!
The trip was fun, but certainly wasn’t without its challenges. Upon arriving in Vegas, our team realized that we were missing something very important… a sign for our exhibit. Oops. Consequently, we spent the evening before the first day of CES hunting for arts and crafts supplies (harder to find than you’d think…) and painting a new sign! We think it turned out pretty well, and it definitely feels very on-brand for a do-it-yourself company.
Our team did demos and talked to interested geeks for four straight days, and it was a blast! We asked people who had never heard of us before to roll up their sleeves for science. The hands shaken, the electrodes used, the business cards traded–it was all a blur of new connections. In the past, we’ve typically only attended scientific conferences, like the Society for Neuroscience conference and the Michigan Science Teachers Association conference, where we’ve been pretty established. So this was our first dip into the consumer world, and a lot of people were excited about the tech and the educational opportunities it provides!
Our RoboRoach proved to be incredibly novel and intriguing for attendees at CES… We didn’t double check with every booth, but we’re fairly certain we were showing off the only real cyborg at CES! We had constant crowds, and even private tours showing up to take a look at our RoboRoach, the world’s first commercially available cyborg!
We hope you enjoyed CES… we know we did! Whether you are new to BYB or are a long-time fan, we sincerely thank you for taking the time to stop by our booth and participate in some hands-on neuroscience! This was a new conference for us and we were not sure what to expect… turns out we were so slammed with crowds that people had to try multiple times to get in and see demos! Thanks for your enthusiasm and support, we’ll definitely be back next year! In the meantime, be sure to keep checking the blog and wander over to our Products Page to see what we’re up to!