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Neuroscience for Everyone!

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Backyard Brains welcomes its First Employees!

After a month of exhausting collective bargaining negotiations, the Backyard Brains labor union has emerged with a new deal which brings not only organic/locally-grown lettuce for the cockroaches plus two new soldering irons for production, but more importantly the addition of 4 new faces to the Backyard Brains team! Please join us in welcoming our newest (and first, mind you) employees.

Ashton Powell – Teacher/Educator. Ashton joins the team for the summer of 2011 to help build the curricula for High School teachers. One of our weakness has been supplying teachers with the tools they need to build a lesson plan around neuroscience and electrophysiology. Ashton has his Ph.D. in neuroscience and is currently a teacher at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. As a previous customer of Backyard Brains, he has used the SpikerBox in his classrooms and challenged his students to design experiments. We look forward to the upcoming tools for teachers later this year!

Cristina Mezuk – Illustrator. Although we always pride ourself on our self-generated content, we are also aware that perhaps more detailed drawings may make things easier to understand. We were very lucky to find a local artist, Cristina Mezuk, to help us turn our initial drawings into professional illustrations. Cristina is a photographer and artist (you can check out the website of her work) that is helping us make our educational materials much more informative. See below for a few examples.

Zachary King – iPhone Developer. Zak comes to Backyard Brains via the Biomedical Engineering BME450 Design Class. Zak and his colleagues were working on an early prototype of the optogenetics kit that is still in development. Zak developed the iPhone interface and circuit to control the timing of a bright LED stimulus. He is currently working to improve the iPhone app written by Alex Wiltschko with some cool new features. Zak’s first update (version 1.7) will appear on the iTunes store in the weeks to come.

Nathan Dotz – Android Developer, Linux Hacker. You spoke, we listened. After all of our talk of being an open hardware and software company, we have heard your concerns about our lack of support for the open Android system. We are happy to have Nathan Dotz join our team to help us build an application for your Android mobile devices. As an talented hacker active in the All Hands Active Maker Space in Ann Arbor, Nathan is already really good at making hardware and software as cheap as possible. Nathan hopes to also develop a browser-based version of the app in the future.

Above: A tale of two platforms. What makes them different makes them great.

Backyard Brains sells 500th SpikerBox, is awarded NIH Grant, and lowers prices for summer

We began distributing SpikerBoxes on April 8th, 2010, and we are proud to announce that on June 15th, 2011, we shipped our 500th SpikerBox! The proud owner is a high school teacher in Minnesota who ordered 12 “Bags of Parts” for students to build and experiment with this summer. You can see our complete user breakdown on our finance page and map. In short, of the 510 SpikerBoxes we have shipped to 183 unique customers, 218 have been preassembled by us, and 292 have been where users build the SpikerBox themselves.

This operation has been a labor of love for us (working out of our living rooms and mother-in-law’s basement), and after 2.5 years of plugging away, we announce we are now ready to expand our team. We were recently awarded an NIMH SBIR grant: “Bringing Neurophysiology into Secondary Schools” to allow us to professionalize all our educational materials as well as build some new prototypes. We are currently recruiting to add a software developer and educator to our team. We thank the U.S. National Government for believing in our mission, and, of course, you the taxpayer!

And we want to thank you with more than a kind word. For the summer, we announce our first sale. The SpikerBox and Bag of Parts prices have now been lowered 10% to get neurophysiology into the hands of more and more people. We shall keep experimenting with production techniques to continue making neuroscience inquiry as affordable as possible.

To the NeuroRevolution!

-Tim & Greg

Backyard Brains Opens Up the Books

Finances are on our collective minds as we all hurry to send in our taxes to the IRS this week, therefore we think this is a great time to announce somefinancialnews of our own. Starting with this year’s tax filing, we are making Backyard Brains open books, meaning that all employees (both of us) and the public are free to pour over our finances in detail and see how much money we take in, and where the money goes.We have set up a page on our website to allows you to see how we are doing on a day-to-day basis:

Our finances to date

Above is our total revenue since we started taking sales. In 2010 we took in $25,000 in sales of SpikerBoxes (and another $3,850 in grants/awards). Where did this money go? Were we good stewards of our new-found wealth? Or did we give cash bankruptcy bonuses to our top execs? It’s up to you to judge. Below you will find the top 10 expenses for all of 2010. Note that a majority of our expenses were directly related to the procurement and distribution of our SpikerBoxes.

Top Vendors of 2010
Vendor Name Amount Spent Why?
DigiKey $5,557.38 SpikerBox Components
FedEx $2,242.08 Shipping and Printing
K & F Electronics $1,617.56 PCB Foundry
Delta Airlines $1,417.00 Flights to SfN
Doubletree Hotels $1,035.82 San Diego is Expensive…
Alex W. $600.00 iPhone Code Monkey
Society for Neuroscience $515.00 Pay it forward.
Radio Shack $350.39 No, not cell phones. Real Parts.
Newark $346.55 More Parts
IX Web Hosting $273.41 Our web server

We did have an expensive trip to San Diego for SfN, but fortunately this was graciously covered by the Anuradha Rao Memorial Travel Award and SFN Next Generation Award. A clever reader may be wondering where our payroll expenses are on this report. It’s not there, because in 2010 we had no payroll. One of our owners (Tim) was reimbursed for personal loans made to the business in 2010, but it wasn’t until this year that he actually started to earn the extravagant full-time salary of $1,500 a month!

We look forward to growing our business in 2011 and offering more products and experiments to feed your hungry brain (RoboRoach available now, and some opto thing-a-ma-genetic-jig may be on the horizon). Stay tuned, and don’t forget to check in on us from time-to-time to see how we are doing. Our minds recollect an old lolcatz cartoon