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Summer Research Fellow’s Mantis Shrimp Paper has been Published!

Hot off the presses! Read all about it! Mantis Shrimp Wrangler Extraordinaire Dan has been published!

Dan presenting his research in Europe

Backyard Brains Senior Fellow Dan Pollack has had his research published in JUNE, the Journal for Undergraduate Neuroscience Education: “An Electrophysiological Investigation of Power-Amplification in the Ballistic Mantis Shrimp Punch.” The paper offers a rundown of Dan’s research, culminating in a template laboratory exercise for use in classrooms, studying the electrophysiology of power-amplified limb movement in arthropods, with a specific focus on mantis shrimp strikes. How do mantis shrimps punch so hard, and how can we study the phenomena in the classroom?

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Public Libraries host Backyard Brains “DIY Neuroprosthetic Workshops”

Bring this Experience to your Classroom!

This fall, we worked with two Michigan Public Libraries to bring a “DIY Neuroprosthetics Workshop” to local communities. The workshops were designed to introduce students and interested adults to the fundamentals of neuroscience: The experience began with participants recording their first Action Potential with the Neuron SpikerBox, then seeing the electrical activity of the brain and muscles, to finally controlling The Claw and other humans with the Human-Human Interface!

After the hands-on demonstrations, the focus shifted to Neuroprosthetics and assistive technology. We cover the history and importance of Neuroprosthetics well in our experiments, but in brief, Neuroprosthetics are “Brain-Machine Interfaces” that allow people to control robotics, electronics, and software using the electrical signals in their brains and bodies! This could be as simple as flexing a muscle to move a computer cursor, or as complex as recording from your brain directly to control a robotic arm!

Then participants had the opportunity to use our DIY Neuroprosthetic Kits to build and take home their very own cyborg hands!

Or, check out the Brain-Machine Interface Classroom Bundle! It includes everything you need to get started.

Check out these pictures and quick reflections below to get a taste of the project – and then invest in a The Claw Bundle and enough
DIY Neuroprosthetic Kits to bring this whole learning experience to your students!

Ann Arbor District Library DIY Neuroprosthetic Workshop

Highland Township Public Library DIY Neuroprosthetic Workshop

DIY Neuroprosthetic Kit (5-pack)

Get these raw materials…
And students build 5 of these which they control with their brains!

Brain-Machine Interface Classroom Bundle (Supports 30 students)

Are you a teacher or a library events coordinator? This is the perfect way to bring this experience to your classroom! Check it out in the store below, or email will@backyardbrains.com for more details.


The DIY Neuroprosthetic Kit: A unique STEM experience inspired by K12 student passion for “Tech that Helps”

Whenever we work with K12 teachers or are in the classrooms ourselves, we are always delighted to hear about and see the enthusiasm that students have for engineering devices that help people. We like to call this “Tech that Helps.” As neuroscientists, we use lots of different tools to study, diagnose, and attempt to heal or repair the brain, body, and nervous system. But the kit and experience that we’ve seen inspire the most students is The Claw kit and lessons on Neuroprosthetics.

Students have described the experience to us like this: They are interested in robotics or engineering but don’t know much about neuroscience. Then, when they see that they can literally, as students, control a computer or robot with the signals from their brains and muscles, it blows their minds and opens up totally unimagined possibilities, inspiring them to learn more about neuroscience and biomedical engineering!

The DIY Neuroprosthetic Kit

The DIY Neuroprosthetic Kit comes with the materials you need for students in your classroom to build and take home their very own neuroprosthetic: a Cyborg Hand!

This kit is an expansion experience. The kit includes all the materials you need to craft 5x Cyborg Hands, but to control them with your brain and the nervous system requires a The Claw Bundle (recommended) or a Muscle SpikerShield Bundle.

Tech that Teaches Engineering and Empathy

One teacher, whose work helped inspire our continued development into the field of K12 DIY Neuroprosthetics, had this to say about the intellectual and emotional journey her students had while learning about “Tech that Helps:”

I think what really affected them most during our year with neuroprosthetics, was first and foremost lessons on empathy and understanding. It is hard to accept that there are so many neurological conditions and there are no solutions for any of them. And teaching empathy and understanding of things like disability, autism, ADHD, and the different epilepsies, I mean, it’s amazing how much that really affected my kids.” – Amy Farkas, MS STEM Teacher

Seeing that class’s work inspired us to put together this kit that teachers can use to quickly and affordably bring this same experience to their classrooms!

Get started with the Classroom Bundle!

Do you want to bring this experience to your students, but you aren’t sure where to start? Check out our “Brain-Machine Interfaces” Classroom Bundle. It has everything you need to get started with the DIY Neuroprosthetic experience, supporting up to 30x students building their own cyborgs hands, but also includes the needed tools for 4x lab stations and for students to perform 5 of our other experiments – including experiments that let you play music with your nervous system!

Behind the Scenes: Reiterative Design… not just for students!

We would like to say that this kit and experience were developed with highly scientific methods, was very carefully planned, and was executed with precision. But, if we’re being honest here, we’ve seen 8th graders develop better projects than our first iterations! Such is the beauty of DIY Neuroscience!

In an earlier blog post, you can see the first 3 generations of our in-house DIY Neuroprosthetic design. We experimented with design, materials, and size, before settling on what you can order now as a great introduction for teachers and students who want to dive right in!

We encourage you to do the same! Use the DIY Neuroprosthetic kit to kickstart your students’ engagement with Neuroprosthetics, then let them dream big, design, and engineer their own devices! Like this “Muscle Fatigue” meter, for example:

High-Five for “Tech that Helps”

We have done all the trial and error to bring you the cleanest DIY Neuroprosthetic hand experiment that we could muster, available in a 5-pack so you can spread the high-fives around! Bring this experience to your classroom and join the NeuroRevolution!