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Young Neurofencer Wins Washington Science Fair (2nd Year in a Row) Using SpikerBox

young neurofencer wins washington science fair

Swift and agile musclework and bladework is all you need to be a good fencer. Or is it?

As it turns out thanks to Supriya Nair, an eighth-grader from Redmond, WA, the brain and heart have their fair share in it too! The young scientist’s research project on neurofencing just won her yet another first place at Washington State Science Fair (WSSEF), as well as a special award in Health & Medicine and a Broadcom MASTERS nomination!

To record and collect data needed for investiging the role of brain, heart and muscles, Supriya used a BYB combo, Heart & Brain SpikerBox and Muscle SpikerBox.

Supriya isn’t new to being a state science fair laureate. Last year, this young fencer won the WSSEF award for measuring her muscles’ reaction time before and after warm-ups to improve her lunge performance.

This time around, she added the brain and heart into the equation, measuring her EEG, EKG and EMG with and without a 15-minute warm-up.

So what were the results?

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Dog and Cat EKG: Recording Electrocardiograms in Humans’ Favorite Companions

dog and cat ekg
“You gonna take dat signal from my toys too?”

— Written by Tim Marzullo —

All vertebrate animals have hearts (and many invertebrates too), and many have EKGs that can be non-invasively recorded as commonly done in humans. We have fairly hairless bodies, so we can easily put sticker electrodes on our wrists or chests to record our EKG. 

However, many of us share our households with furry four-legged creatures that bring us joy, companionship, humor, protection and pest control. Could we record their EKGs too? We know that the smaller the mammal, the faster the heart rate, but can we see this trend in our own pets, and in a way that minimally annoys our household friends? Yes we can. Ladies and gentlemen, the Dog and Cat EKG.

Dog EKG

For our dog EKG investigations, we chose a two-year-old Vizsla dog named “Santina”, cared for by BYBer Florencia Edwards. This dog has very short hair and a gentle disposition, making it ideal for our pilot experiments. We modified our EEG headband by using tennis wristbands instead, inserting metal buttons into the wristbands (the buttons we find in jeans and wallets), and slipped them on her front two legs (signal electrodes), and one rear leg (ground). 

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Can Neuroscience Help You Fence Better? Middle-School Scientist Wins State Science Fair Using SpikerBox

can neuroscience help you fence better
Supriya and Sujit Nair establishing a new fencing technique: Neurofencing

Every fencer will hear it countless times: warm-ups are a MUST. Do them and they’ll bump up your performance. Skip them and you may end up hurting yourself.

But not every fencer will ask why! Supriya Nair, a busy sixth-grader from Redmond, WA, decided to conduct an experiment and find out what the correlation is between exercise and performance in her favorite sport. Where other people see a self-evident truth that doesn’t need any questioning, this scientifically-minded middle-schooler saw a hypothesis that she can poke through to test it, quantify it, and prove it!

And what better way to do that than to: 

  1. sport a set of electrodes of a Neuron SpikerBox to capture an EMG signal from her right hand and right leg as she lunges,
  2. measure her muscles’ reaction time from rest to touche in controlled circumstances, with and without 15-minute warm-ups, and compare the findings.

The results came in and won her the First Place Trophy at the annual Washington State Science and Engineering Fair and a nomination for this year’s Broadcom Masters, STEM competition for the nation’s top talented middle-schoolers!

Neurofencing: How It All Began

I’d always hear it from coaches that I needed to do pre-bout exercise. But there was no quantitative data that would support it, just qualitative. And frankly, I was not very disciplined in warm-ups,” Supriya told us in a Zoom interview. That’s how she came up with the idea to eavesdrop on her muscles’ electrical activity using the SpikerBox her dad got her, and measure it to see whether it adds up to the hypothesis. And boom! Pre-bout exercise lasting only 15 minutes can improve a fencer’s performance by a whopping 15%, she discovered.

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