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Cockroach Nascar: More Than Left Turns! Olivier’s Project is Ramping Up!

Hey, it’s Olivier*! Since I last posted a few developments have occured. First off, I have excelled in the surgical prep portion of my project so much so that I am able to perform two surgeries within the span of an hour and then I can give them a two hour rest so that I can run experiments in the afternoon. It’s all about efficiency! *(Editor’s Note: aka Welcome to the O-Zone)

Speaking of those experiments I finally achieved forward movement of the cockroaches using a function generator! A function generator is this magical box which sends electricity at a desired frequency, amplitude, pulse duration, and pulse width; the flow of electricity can also be sent out continuously or in short bursts. I made a breadboard circuit to help control the stimulation from the function generator to the cockroach so that I can control which cerci are activated. In the case of forward movement it’s both cerci that are stimulated. A white three-pronged leash attaches to the electrode (white glove like cable, instead of the bluetooth backpack) and to the breadboard (rectangular structure with wires protruding from it). If anyone is wondering the KitKat IS necessary for an organism’s sustenance… just not the cockroach’s… I need a break every once and awhile…

For gathering quantifiable data, I made a disk with concentric circles every centimeter from the center and lines that delineate 22.5º  in order to measure how far the cockroach runs and in what direction.

Now my work consists of collecting data on the optimal pulse duration and amplitude for cercal stimulation of a cockroach. The knob that controls pulse duration on the function generator is not reliable so Jake the techmaster general has come in with his arduino and gave Dylan and me a much easier way of augmenting the pulse duration which we will certainly put to good use. Two weeks until MID-SURE, a conference at Michigan State where us students present our research to faculty and each other. Translation: Crunch Time.

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