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 email@example.com to brag about it a little!
Here at Backyard Brains, we are all about citizen science, or the idea that the scientific community benefits from the collaboration with members of the general public for collecting and analyzing information about the natural world. Very DIY, very much the “for everyone” in our slogan. In 2017, Backyard Brains partnered with the University of Michigan’s Multidisciplinary Design Project (MDP) to focus neuroscience education on another kind of brain: birds! With the help of BYB, a team of undergraduate engineering students worked to develop a new kind of “Backyard Brain.” The idea was this: Create a low-cost device that could be deployed in backyards that would identify and record birdsongs! This could be used to help track and log bird populations across the country, which is an important index of environmental health. Development of this project continued over the course of our 2017 summer fellowship , and that progress is detailed in Zach’s summer blog posts. BYB and MDP will team up again for the project this year, with a new team and a new, expanded goal. But first, how did such a project come to mind? Naturally, it is the technological next step of a classic, “analog,” cataloging method…
The Audubon Christmas Bird Count
The National Audubon Society‘s annual “Christmas Bird Count” is perhaps the greatest example of democratized citizen science. Since 1900, volunteers have braved harsh, wintry conditions to help count and identify bird populations in their hometowns, as seen in Audubon’s photo above. These volunteers, from all across the country, then send in their findings, thus informing a national bird census.
The data gathered by initiatives like the Christmas Bird Count and Birdsong Identification project is incredibly important. Bird populations are very sensitive to environmental changes, making them a strong indicator of environmental health, stability, and possible effects of climate change. In this way, bird population trends can also be a lens to see our own world through.
This is the kind of citizen science that has inspired us, and others, to come up with devices which could help perform this task. Our work began in this field last year with the development of a “Birdsong Identification” device. The aim was to create a low cost, easily-distributed listening device which could be deployed to identify songbirds, and Zach’s project this summer started to do just that.
Birds, Rain, Wind, and More
The newest iteration of this project doesn’t stop at birdsongs. For 2018, the BYB-MDP partnership is looking to expand the reach of the project to create an acoustic environmental recorder that can also be listening for rainfall, wind, bats, coyotes, and other wildlife! There is a lot of information to be gleaned by turning an ear on our wilderness. Birdsongs are still on the menu, but with a new team (see above) and a new direction, the goal is to create a low-cost device which can be deployed and modified by both students and scientists to focus on whatever environmental indices interest them most!