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Neuroscience for Everyone!

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Lifelong Learners Perform Neuroscience Experiments!

Seeing her EMG signal for the first time!

Ph.D. student and friend of Backyard Brains, Brinnae Bent of Duke University, recently hosted a class for seniors participating in the “Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke (OLLI at Duke).” With help from some colleagues at North Carolina State University, she put on an afternoon workshop in Electrophysiology for these lifelong learners.

From its website, “OLLI at Duke offers a wide array of courses in literature, history, religion, philosophy, natural sciences, social sciences, performing arts, art and architecture, economics, finance, computers and lifestyle issues.”

Participants in the Osher class performed e-phys experiments using our Muscle SpikerShield Bundles! The participants were excited to see their very own EMG signals and to test their strength against the LED array on the SpikerShield. And, as it often does, discussion turned towards the implications of the technology and the importance of bringing this education to more people.

Discussing and Understanding Principles of Electrophysiology

We’re always excited to see what our friends and colleagues are doing with our kits! If you ever feel inspired to do some outreach of your own, please feel free to send us some photos and a brief description of the experience and we’ll be sure to include it on our site!

Testing their Strength!


Backyard Brains Open House: Ann Arbor Tech Trek

BYB 2016 Fellows @ Tech Trek Last Year

This Friday 3pm – 7pm, Backyard Brains will be hosting an open house as part of this year’s A2 Tech Trek! This is a fun, annual event which coordinates open houses at dozens of local tech companies. This event showcases the vibrant tech company and startup community in Ann Arbor and is a chance for the public to see all the cool development going on in “hidden” office spaces around the city. You never know what kind of cool tech could be living in the office suites above a Ben and Jerry’s…

The event is free, but registration is required: Click Here to Register!

To help promote the event, BYB’s Greg Gage was recently featured on Live in the D, a local news program highlighting events in Southeastern Michigan. Greg Gage recorded Chuck Gaidica’s EMG signals and then, with the Human-To-Human Interface, helped Chuck control Bill Mayer of Ann Arbor SPARK, the organizer of the Tech Trek!

To see the video, follow this link:

See the Video!

We’ll be at our office, located at 308 1/2 State Street, all afternoon to give demonstrations and talk shop! Also, our summer research fellows will be down at All Hands Active, a community makerspace located downstairs at 255 E Liberty St. They are excited to talk with you about their projects! In case you missed any of them, here are the research projects! Your homework is to come prepared with a question for one of the fellows! There just might be a free sticker in it for you if you do…

For more information on the Tech Trek, check out:

From their website:

“Ann Arbor Tech Trek is a free community event and a terrific opportunity to see the real gems located inside the doors of many area tech companies. It’s also a chance to see what’s unique about downtown Ann Arbor.

Leading technology companies will open their doors to the public and showcase their latest innovations. Whether you’re a job seeker, student, professional, or someone curious about the Ann Arbor tech community, anyone is welcome to attend.

Each stop on the trek will create a fun, educational experience that reflects each company’s unique culture. Those on the tour will also enjoy refreshments, prizes, t-shirts, and giveaways.

Tech Trek is a win-win for companies, community, and a great way for the youth to explore possible career paths.”


We hope to see you Friday! Either at our office or at All Hands Active!

BYB at the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire

Backyard Brains was excited to participate in this years “Mini-Maker Faire,” hosted by the Ann Arbor District Library in downtown Ann Arbor. We enjoy attending these events, as they are a great opportunity to see what other members of the community are creating! The crowd was a mix of children, students, teachers, makers, enthusiasts, and total beginners to the maker community!

This year we invited our Summer Fellows along. We think teaching is a great way to reinforce what you know and to learn what you don’t know, so we sent them off into the crucible of public scrutiny to forge themselves into hardened scientific demonstrators… Or, more accurately, we told them to bring their experiments and some BYB kits and just share what they were working on with the attendees of the faire! Much of the day was spent “playing” with younger kids who were just excited to see science experiments, but many of the older kids, their parents, and community members were fascinated with the science behind our Human-Human-Interface and Muscle SpikerBox. These inquisitive minds always lead to two-way conversations, and we learned and taught a lot!

The fellows had a great time, and wanted to share a couple of thoughts about the experience!

Nathan: I was very impressed by how young kids tried to understand the mechanism of our SpikerShield demonstration. They picked up the concept of the neuronal activity quickly and asked many interesting questions such as the applications of the SpikerShield, the path to becoming a neuroscientist, and so on. We definitely brought the NeuroRevolution to the maker’s fair. Neuroscience for everyone!

Joud: “I don’t want to be controlled!” We started the morning with this stubborn kid who managed to force his sister and dad to sit and have their hands twitching and moving, then we met to two hilarious sisters who spent 10 minutes laughing insanely while experimenting with the human to human interface; the least I can say is: I love Neuroscience! I could indeed see the motto of BYB “neuroscience for everyone” and the “NeuroRevolution”  happening in front of my eyes, as I observed the fascination on people’s faces. Parents were asking about how their kids can get involved with BYB over the summer, others kids were plotting how to take over the world with our cool devices, and one father specifically asked: “So, what’s the plan now? Are we going to see “become the actual Iron Man” kits in markets soon?”  Well, who knows …

Spencer: This summer’s maker faire was full of characters, all who were interested in our experiments in their own unique way. The very first participant of the day got controlled with the human-to-human interface, stared at his arm for a while, and looked right at me. “I can feel my Spirit being separated from my body, ya know what I mean?” I nodded with acquiescence. “Yeah, like the spiritual electrical energy that’s normally in my arm here moved up to my neck.” He walked around in bewilderment, inspecting his arm as he left the room and came back two or three times. “It really changes your view, like who are we? That’s crazy man.” I too hope to someday grasp the level of existential insightfulness the Backyard Brains’ products have to offer.

Jaimie: Best by far was a smart little girl, maybe 7 years old, with some sass. When asked by her dad to come back to our table later, she huffs and says “No, the line is just going to get longer.” She then turned to me and said, “I have to tell him that because I know that if we don’t do it now, we will end up somewhere else and run out of time and he won’t let me come back to try it, so it’s better to just do it now.” All I could do was laugh, because she was probably right. She then proceeded to control her dad’s arm with the human to human interface. That street smart, little scientist is going places.

Ilya: Teaching kids how to solder felt a lot like what I imagine it feels like trying to be a good parent. You want the child to learn, to get excited that they managed this Herculean task of constructing a working electrical circuit, but at the same time you want nothing but to take the 700-degree soldering iron away from them. “What if they burn themselves? What if they burn someone else!? What if they burn both themselves and someone else!?!?” screams your brain, “Just solder it for them, it’s safer that way”. In the end, there were only one or two kids that needed me to hold the soldering iron for them, for everyone else the warning of “imagine touching a frying pan that’s on fire” seemed to suffice.