The Backyard Brains 2018 Summer Research Fellowship is coming to a close, but not before we get some real-world scientific experience in! Our research fellows are nearing the end of their residency at the Backyard Brains lab, and they are about to begin their tenure as neuroscience advocates and Backyard Brains ambassadors. The fellows dropped in on University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) Symposium during their final week of the fellowship, and each scientist gave a quick poster presentation about the work they’d been doing this summer! The fellows synthesized their data into the time-honored poster format and gave lightning-round pitches of their work to attendees. BYB is in the business of creating citizen scientists, and this real-world application is always a highlight of our fellowship. Check out their posters below!
The Open Hardware Symposium and our Exhibit Generated Excitement, Smiles, and Inspiration
Every year, Backyard Brains reaches farther and farther with our quest to spread DIY neuroscience, and this year, we hopped the pond to the largest neuroscience conference in Europe! Our experiments were a hit at the Forum of European Neuroscience (FENS) held in Berlin, Germany from July 7-11, 2018. Hosted by the German Neuroscience Society, the FENS conference brought together some of the greatest minds into the CityCube Berlin convention center for a week of brain-pumping excitement. Beginning with a presentation at the “Open Hardware Summit,” Backyard Brains set up shop for four days and sincerely WOWed hundreds of visitors. Will, our resident BYB mouthpiece, collected some social media highlights of the experience.
Managed to snap a few of the human demos from @BackyardBrains #openhardware at #FENS2018. Muscles controlling LEDs, robotic claw and then another human arm! Such great insights from approaching neuroscience education in this way. pic.twitter.com/KjgPtA3cBp
— Jenny Molloy (@jenny_molloy) July 7, 2018
This was BYB’s first year attending the conference and we think we made a bit of a splash… Dr. Gage’s talk at the Open Hardware Summit generated a lot of excitement, which resulted in a lot of visits to our exhibit!
Following the caffeine drought of the first day (Seriously only one coffee kiosk in three halls? Thanks CityCube…) we found the energy to keep our neurons firing, doing demos and talking neurosci with all the incredibly passionate attendees at the show.
Fan Favorite for #SciComm:
If we had to pick a best in show, our Human-Human-Interface was tweeted and tagged over and over again #SCICOMM.
Featured in a Viral TED talk (Over 8M views) given by our co-founder, the Human-Human-Interface brings the cutting edge of Neuroscience to your classroom. But there is more to it than just one demonstration! Priced at $260, the Human-Human-Interface also allows you to do Arduino projects, Muscle Physiology labs, and independent Neuroscience Research – just see this example from a 12th grader’s research project!
A Neuroscientist’s Social Media Game is Fire…
But we weren’t the only ones showing off our experiments! Social Media was ablaze with @BackyardBrains tags as attendees and their colleagues shared videos of our experiments with their networks. We are a collective which prizes citizen science and grassroots, social-sharing of neuroscience like this is what we live for!
Here are some of the hits:
— Viktor Al Naqib (@ANotherViktor) July 9, 2018
Felt like a kid at the @BackyardBrains booth at #FENS2018 @FENSorg #FENSVideo today controlling my friend’s muscle activity with the electrical impulses generated by my brain! Affordable and awesome Neuroscience for undergrads, this guys are great… pic.twitter.com/dcGviXwODp
— Diana Alatriste (@disadwing) July 9, 2018
Go check out @BackyardBrains at #FENS2018 and their demos.
In the video one person is controlling the other person’s movement through electric signal picked up by skin electrodes ???
Super cool #SciComm gadgets! pic.twitter.com/i5h4ePRmDS
— Anders Jespersen (@azimuten) July 10, 2018
An Intentional Aesthetic?
We had a lack of tables, so we had to get creative…very DIY, very on-brand. We’ll call it an intentional design choice…. We are so grateful t0 everyone who paid us a visit and rolled up their sleeves for science, and we hope you keep Backyard Brains in mind for the future for any of your #SciComm, Outreach, K12 or Undergraduate Neuroscience Needs! Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or new ideas!
— Deborah Apthorp (@deborahapthorp) July 11, 2018
Before I spill the Feijoada about Backyard Brains’ awesome experience at Campus Party Brazil, I should mention that I firmly believe that education can save the world. I should also mention that in regards to our brains, according to neuroscience research, your education lasts your entire life.
I’ll cut to the chase: my recent Brazilian adventure with Backyard Brains has inspired me to write this to promote lifelong education and moreover, to remind you that learning can be enjoyable and even thrilling. It certainly doesn’t have to be bound to a classroom. Keep in mind that evolutionarily speaking, survival did not depend on absorbing curated lesson plans 8 hours a day in a classroom, but upon chaotic and reactive information-gathering experiences.
At birth our brains develop at an extremely rapid rate. Babies form new neurons at a rate of 250,000 every minute! By the time a child is three years old, their brain will reach 80% of adult volume and create close to 1000 trillion connections between billions of neurons. There is a prevailing myth about the brain that after a certain age we stop forming new neurons. This has been dispelled by current research and it’s clear that the brain has an amazing ability to change throughout life. This is called neuroplasticity and it’s the brain’s ability for our neurons to rewire and add new neurons in regions involved in learning throughout our lifetimes. Believe it or not, these new neurons show the same plasticity as seen in the rapidly developing brain of newborns. On top of that, the adult brain uses about 25% of the body’s metabolic energy despite being on average only 2% of our entire body weight. So considering that a quarter of your energy going to supporting you brain, which has this amazing adaptability to develop and optimize throughout life, why not continually take advantage of your own brain’s superpower of learning?
So, what if we threw super-fun, non-stop parties that were also packed full of learning opportunities? What if these events ran non-stop for up to a week straight? What if we invited world leaders of technology, entertainment, innovation, creativity and science to give inspiring keynote speeches and exciting, intimate workshops? Would the world become a better place?
No need to ponder any further: this type of forward-thinking, multidisciplinary educational party already exists! It’s called Campus Party and Backyard Brains had a blast earlier this year at Campus Party Brazil!
The very first Campus Party to happen in all of Asia is coming soon. This July 6th – 8th, join us at Campus Party Singapore! Backyard Brains will be there putting on two workshops each day. Come learn about neuroscience with us through fun hands-on experiments. You can create your own cyborg cockroach in the RoboRoach Workshop and control your friend’s mind in the Human Interface Workshop. We hope to see you there!!