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Neurorobot: Scientific Paper Published

Start the presses! Backyard Brains has a new publication! Our Neurorobot paper is titled “Neurorobotics Workshop for High School Students Promotes Competence and Confidence in Computational Neuroscience.” You can read the article in its entirety on the Frontiers in Neurorobotics website–because we believe neuroscience knowledge is for everyone, and no one should have to pay for access! The paper details our recent work developing the methodologies essential for making neurorobotics accessible in high school classrooms.

We began the Neurorobot project in 2018, when notable neuroscientist Christopher Harris joined the team with his gaggle of “brain-based rugrats” in tow. The Neurorobot aimed to bring neurorobotics more enticing to high school learners, and we quickly started to brainstorm (pun intended!) how we would implement such experiments in schools.

The Neurorobot Workshops

Chris ran the workshop at 2 high schools, sharing his 1-week Neurorobot workshop with nearly 300 students total. The students piloted the Neurorobot App developed for controlling the bots, and were able to provide feedback on the successes and shortcomings of the workshops.

The workshops were targeted to give students a base of knowledge and increase their confidence on the scientific topics studied. Both prior to and after the week-long sessions, students were presented a quiz, and their responses were analyzed for retention and comfort level. We found a significant improvement on all content questions, showcasing the effectiveness of our learning tools.

The Neurorobot Fellowship Project

If you recall, one of our fellows spent his summer working on the Neurorobot project. Ilya worked on coding the machine learning and computer vision aspects of the bot. Throughout the summer, he made progress posts, which can be found below:

Next Steps

There is nothing like hands-on application to showcase room for improvement, and our Neurorobotics Workshop definitely did so! We ran into some unexpected issues and tried to adapt on the fly, and we are so excited to keep this momentum going. Based on our successes, we hope to pilot more Neurorobotics programs in the future! Is your school interested? If you would like more information on how to get involved, email christopher@backyardbrains.com!


A Fun and Productive Teacher Training Workshop: These Teachers are Neuro-Nerds!

Following the previous success of our 3-day Teacher Training workshop at the end of the 2019 Calendar Year – we decided to kick-off 2020 with a free workshop for educators, open to all!

So we set a date… Jan 31st, shot out some emails, and hoped we wouldn’t be eating bagels and cream cheese alone in the office on the morning of the workshop! Far from alone, we had 10 passionate educators join us, from classroom teachers to curriculum designers and even graduate students involved in neuroscience outreach! Some came from local, Ann Arbor schools, and some drove much further, or even flew(!) to attend the event!

The day was booked well ahead of time. Our goal was to cover both intro and intermediate materials to enable these educators to improve how they teach both invertebrate and human physiology in their science outreach and in their STEM, Biology, and Neuroscience classes

Starting with some Invertebrate Physiology, the educators covered strategies for teaching science with Model Organisms, performed live neuron recordings from the cockroach leg prep, and practiced both introductory and advanced analytics approaches to better understand how the nervous system works and how we, as scientists, can begin quantifying electrical phenomena from within the nervous system.

Then we dove into some human physiology experiments, covering muscle activity, reflexes, and reaction times! These labs are quick and quantifiable, and the educators experience first-hand how they can be used to unpack a lot of big ideas in a short amount of time! For example, reactions and reflexes are different… but why? And a much broader question, how does “information” get from a to b? What is the speed(s) of information?

And of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without some hands-on time with the Human-Human Interface! This inspired shock, laughter, and intrigue from all the attendees. It really is an experience that needs to be felt to be believed.

Everyone agreed – it was a productive day! The educators responded that the material we covered would not only help them teach NEUROSCIENCE better, but it gave them strategies to teach SCIENCE better!

Our next opportunity for a shorter-form introductory training session is a February Webinar. Click this link or the image below to register, and keep an eye out on our blog for future opportunities!

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Educational Innovations Webinar: Wire Me Up! (Feb 20)

Would you like all the benefits of a Backyard Brains workshop without leaving the comfort of your desk chair? Our friends and partners at Educational Innovations can help! On February 20, 2020, from 4:00-4:30pm EST, Educational Innovations will be hosting a webinar on Neuroscience in the K-12 Classroom!

The Details…
What: a free, 30-minute webinar from EI and BYB
When: February 20, 2020 from 4:00-4:30pm EST
Where: your computer!

The Subject…
-Discover how your K-12 students can perform REAL neuroscience and biofeedback experiments in the classroom!
-Learn how to bring REAL mind control into your classroom as you teach your students to create their own brain-machine interfaces and cyborgs!
-Find out more about these hands-on, minds-on, groundbreaking neuroscience kits!


The Cost
Absolutely free! Just register at the button below, and log in on February 20 at 4:00pm EST!

Join in for a cool opportunity to learn more about neuroscience through Backyard Brains products!