From left to right: Top: Greg Gage (Not a Fellow), Zachary, Jaimie, Spencer, Nathan, Ilya Bottom: Joud, Christy, Haley
It’s early on a warm Ann Arbor morning and the office is buzzing with excitement! Our Summer 2017 research fellows are here! Today, our fellows are getting to know the staff and space at Backyard Brains, but more importantly, they’re planning, because for the next ten weeks they will be working on neuroscience and engineering research projects. The projects include work with Squids, Songbirds, Dragonflies, Mosquitoes, EEG recordings, and Electric Fish. The fellows work to create inexpensive, DIY methodology (the BYB way) to tackle their research problems and then present their findings at a poster presentation and in a journal publication. The fellows also develop experimental-grade versions of their projects so that other students and teachers can perform the experiments themselves!
After a morning of introductions and orientation, we took a quick break for lunch, then hurried back to the office to perform some recordings. For many of our fellows, working with our SpikerBoxes was their first opportunity to perform real neuron recordings! This is just the beginning of a summer of hands on science, rapid prototyping, troubleshooting, and data collection.
Quick Italian Buffet for Lunch
Recording from Earthworm neurons. Spikes!
As part of the fellowship, the students will be keeping you updated with frequent blog posts. These posts are a great window in the world of research! From start to finish, you can follow along with our fellows as they experience the triumphs and pitfalls of scientific inquiry.
You’ll be hearing a lot about our fellows and their projects for the next ten weeks. They’re excited to introduce themselves and their projects to you soon. Keep an eye out here, on our Facebook page, and Twitter for project updates and more!
Four more years… of Science!
It is an exciting day at the Backyard Brains office! After much revision and consideration, we have secured further NIH grant funding to continue our development of neuroscience education tools and materials!
If you are unfamiliar, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is a federal agency that is responsible for performing and funding research in neuroscience, biology, immunology, and other health sciences.
We, like many other organizations and health sciences companies, could not exist without support from institutes like the NIH, and we are excited to continue working with the NIH to create new neuroscience tools, experiments, and teaching materials. This will make neuroscience more exciting and more accessible to students, parents, and teachers.
Grant funding isn’t just free money… it is all carefully allocated and approved to be invested in specific projects. Our grant had three specific aims:
- Develop new human physiology kits and experiments
- Create kits for human-machine engineering projects
- Develop a comprehensive 6-12 neuroscience curriculum
We are particularly excited because of the interdisciplinary nature of these projects. Working with kids as young as sixth grade, we have the opportunity to teach and excite students to learn more about their brain, about biology, engineering, robotics, electrical engineering, and more! With much of the money targeted specifically towards the development of our human electrophysiology experiments, we have big ideas for new tech and experiments for the EEG, EMG, and Human-Machine Interface (SpikerShield) kits.
Another important driver in our quest is the development of stronger and more cohesive teaching materials and curricula. To this end, we will be updating our existing experiments, revamping our teacher’s guides, and weaving it all together to create a progressive, educational experience for students in grades 6-12. We are creating a classroom experience that integrates physical and web-based media and will get kids answering questions and then asking their own.
We believe that neuroscience and electrophysiology represent invaluable opportunities to get students engaged in STEM. Not every student we reach will become a neuroscientist… but we believe our work broadens the scope of subject matter that students are exposed to. We’ve taught elementary school students about neurons, worked with middle school students on Arduino projects, helped high school students engineer their own brain-machine interfaces, and provided resources to undergraduate universities to enrich their neuroscience programs. We believe this work is essential for inspiring a new generation of passionate scientists and thinkers, because it is more important now than ever that we educate and inspire our students so that they may carry our torch and help it burn even brighter in the future.
Flying back from a successful trip from California, Tim and Greg of Backyard had decided there was time for one more experiment…
Thanks to the kind TSA folks at the San Francisco International Airport and Delta airlines, we were able to record spikes in flight. Quite possibly the first neurons ever recorded on a commercial airline!
With the exception of one dissenting voice, the passengers on board were a great audience. By coincidence, the person sitting in the seat next to Tim and Greg was a neuroscientistfromBritain! He helped design our working hypothesis for the experiment: spikes will fire less with decreased O2 pressure in the cabin. Here are some of the photos from the historic flight.
The stow-aways take in thescenery of Californiafrom 37,000 feet.
Remember when doing surgery, to keep the operating room well lit.
Our flight attendant was gracious enough to loan us anaesthesia in the form of a cup of ice and a Coke Zero (and a bag a peanuts).
Fellow passengers were given a science lesson while roaming thefuselageor waiting for the restrooms
While we failed to determine if decreased air pressure changed the spiking rate of insects, we determined that the overall experiment was a big success!