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Students Checked Out? Reel ’em Back In with DIY Neuroscience

Is DIY Neuroscience the best way to end the school year?*

The end of the school year… as we all say, summer is “nearest unto heaven.” ** Students and teachers agree, when we enter that last week of school, it is easy to start checking out.

Working with a friend’s class at a local Middle School, BYBer Will W. visited to help reel back in the students’ attentions and sneak a little bit more learning into the end of their school years!

Over Four, 45m blocks, he introduced students to the nervous system, to action potentials in cockroach neurons, to human-machine interfaces, to neuroprosthetics, and even mind-control! The classroom also has some of these tools for next year, empowering next year’s class of 8th graders to dive right into DIY neuroscience labs!

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Impress your Grant Providers with DIY Neuroscience

Grant Funded Science!


Just a hop and a skip away from our home office in Ann Arbor Michigan, Biology teachers at Okemos High School requested and received grant funding to introduce several Human-Human-Interfaces into their classrooms. The results left their students stunned…

“‘This feels so weird!’ was a common exclamation. Most students laughed during the experience. A few disliked the sensation, but all left the lesson with a much clearer understanding of how our neurons, brain, and muscles work together.

Past teacher’s have described our kits and experiments as “grant-bait,” and they meant that in the best way possible. By combining elements of Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering, and Project-Based Learning, students can be exposed to cutting-edge concepts in advanced scientific fields without breaking the budget. 

Think about it: When was the last time your grant provider thanked YOU for your request?

“The OEF is grateful to the OHS biology teachers for requesting this equipment and helping to inspire our own students here in Okemos.”

The students are excited, the teachers are satisfied, the grant foundation is happy to see their investment put to good use, and everyone was inspired by the power of Neuroscience in education and learned a little bit more about how their brains and bodies worked. Sounds like a good deal to me!

In fact, just recently we received this message in an email this week from a 7th grade Science Teacher who introduced her students to the nervous system with the Human-Human-Interface:

“Everything went perfectly with the tech I ordered from Backyard Brains! My students were extremely engaged; it was a perfect way to introduce the nervous system to them. I have recommended your products to other science teachers in the area and will be looking to order more in the future for my classroom. Thank you for all that you do!

Required Kit: Human-Human-Interface

Featured in a Viral TED talk (Over 8M views) given by our co-founder, the Human-Human-Interface brings the cutting edge of Neuroscience to your classroom. But there is more to it than just one demonstration! Priced at $260, the Human-Human-Interface also allows you to do Arduino projects, Muscle Physiology labs, and independent Neuroscience Research – just see this example from a 12th grader’s research project!

MATLAB <3 BYB + Arduino

Why buy, when you can build? Madhu Govindarajan of MathWorks recently used one of our old products to make his very own heart rate detector. The Heart & Brain SpikerShield (recently replaced by our Heart and Brain SpikerBox) was designed to help the user view and record the action potentials of their heart easily, and Madhu has harnessed this basic concept to create his own heart rate detector.

In the demo, Madhu explains how to use the MATLAB and Simulink programs to filter the raw ECG, compute the heart rate value, and display it on a thin-film-transistor LCD screen (very high resolution, with a transistor for each pixel), called a TFT screen. The actual TFT screen is available here, and Madhu’s team used the libraries available as well as their own custom modifications to create a recognizable ECG display. Sounds very BYB, if we do say so ourselves.

MATLAB (matrix laboratory) is a programming language developed by MathWorks used by neuroscientists and engineers alike to do a lot of data analysis. It’s a powerful tool that pairs nicely with open source gear like ours, and there are accessible versions available to young coders for learning and development. This example is a higher-level high school or undergrad experiment, and we are excited to see ways in which we can expand use for the high school level! For more information on using MATLAB in schools, check out this Mathworks webpage.

MathWorker Tom Bryan primarily worked on the signal processing code behind the video, and he had this to say about our work: “BYB will be my go-to for neuroscience hardware from now on, because they are the only reliable company making good products.” Thanks for the high praise, Tom!

We love to hear your stories. If you have done something cool with our gear, drop us a note at hello@backyardbrains.com to brag about it a little!