South Korea (called the “Republic of Korea” locally) is a great fit for Backyard Brains. The country is famous for investing heavily in technology and education, having modernized at a mind-boggling pace since the ceasefire of the Korean War (1950-1953). Over the past two years, we have been working closely with a Korean company, OSUNHITECH.
They have been in business for the last 25 years, and are about 3x the size of Backyard Brains (the size is important – there are only three layers of management at OSUNHITECH, so decisions can be made relatively quickly and negotiations tend to be efficient). They primarily produce microscopes (and are an official importer for Zeiss), are focused on the educational market, and have been looking to expand into neuroscience and molecular biology. Microscopy and neuroscience walk hand in hand, so we were open to discussing an alliance with them when first contact was made.
Picture this: you’re sitting in your bedroom in Germany, video chatting with a friend in South Korea over coffee. You sip your coffee and they have no choice but to sip theirs!
That’s exactly what our new prototype, the Wireless Human-Human Interface, is about. It transmits biosignals from one person’s brain to the ulnar nerve in another person’s arm. Yes, that’s what our classic Human-Human Interface does too. Except that you can now do it remotely!
So far, people could connect remotely via WiFi. Now they can also connect via electrophysiology!
Which is why we’re super excited to announce that the Wireless HHI has made it into the selection for this year’s Amazing Maker Award contest, along with 95 other applicants! The top 12 projects will be selected as finalists and published in Make: Magazine, and the best 3 are to get cash prizes. It’s a juried competition, but community votes will count as well.
Best of all, you can help us too if you like our prototype! Just head over here and hit “Vote”. (You’ll need to log in or register if you haven’t already.) You can vote once per day per project till July 15, when the winners will be announced.
Fully remote, fully in-person, or somewhere in a sweet spot between the two. Those are the main safety concerns that are being laid right now in front of the decision makers, on behalf of students, parents, teachers and everyone around them, right at the kickoff of the new academic year. But whichever model prevails, it might turn out to be a temporary fix to a permanent problem. Furthermore, it doesn’t provide an answer to the key educational concern. How to empower the remote so that it can fully substitute the in-person if need be?
This issue is especially relevant to teaching STEM. How will an educator facilitate hands-on, project based learning without projects that students can actually get their hands on? In other words, is the “learning” part of the “distance learning” equation going to be reluctantly surrendered to a lesser evil scenario?
Even as COVID-19 begins to stretch out from a single season into an era, it’s becoming clear that distance learning might be here to stay. But it’s not a reason to despair if you’re a teacher or a parent, or both. Quite the contrary – there are ways to leverage all the good aspects of learning from the comfort of one’s couch and still provide hands-on (or should we say: gloves-on?) engagement.
A groundbreaking study by researchers from Purdue and Harvard Universities (DeBoer et al., 2017) has shown it, using our very own Neuron SpikerBox kit. Online learning, the study has found, yields remarkable results when complemented with at-home lab kits. Students who enrolled in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and used our bioamplifiers got better grades than their peers who weren’t equipped with the lab kits. More importantly, their self-efficacy was three times higher than that of their counterparts. Both groups followed the same syllabus; both watched videos, took quizzes and virtual simulated labs. The only difference was the chance to do-it-yourself, which yet again turned out to be a source and key to confidence.