November is always a busy month at Backyard Brains, and this year was no exception! We expanded our conference tour to four conferences across two continents, from California, USA to Belgrade, Serbia.We did thousands of demos for new customers and promoted nearly 10 new products coming to BYB in 2019. Here are some tidbits about our domestic endeavors.
SFN: Society for Neuroscience Conference
The Society for Neuroscience Conference is our annual Big Event. We’ve been going for years and always have BYB members from all over the world converge to give demos and sell our wares. We like to brag that we have the most interactive exhibit at SFN, and we think our attendees would agree!
As we continue our work to make neuroscience accessible, we are finding that there is a surprising lack of opportunity for many undergraduate students to do hands-on neuroscience labs. SFN is a great opportunity to meet with Professors and undergraduate instructors are looking for affordable ways for their undergrads to begin performing meaningful labs and research. For fractions of the cost of a single “research grade” rack, professors can outfit their labs with electrophysiology gear for every student! Not only that, but many undergrad and graduate students are similarly looking for tools which can empower their neuroscience outreach efforts, and are excited to discover us as they wander the exhibit hall at SFN.
Perhaps the quickest Demo to Classroom conversion ever – On the 4th, we demoed the Human-Human to the NW Noggin team. They bought one on the spot, and then on the 5th, they demoed it to hundreds of elementary schoolers! They came back on the 6th to ask for more electrodes. We eagerly stuffed their bags! Welcome to the Neurorevolution, NW Noggin!
NABT: National Association of Biology Teachers Conference
This year, we did a week-long conference binge! As soon as we put a wrap on SFN, we packed our bags, moved to a different San Diego hotel, and set up for our second weekend conference! We had the opportunity to meet up with Biology teachers from all across the country at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference (What a mouthful, we’re thankful for acronyms) or NABT.
Biology teachers are our people. There is a great deal of neuroscience in the General/Honors track biology curriculum, as students learn about the nervous systems of vertebrates and invertebrates. Biology teachers are also some of the most hands-on teachers we know. No other required classes have such an emphasis on hands-on learning, making BYB and Bio a natural fit.
CSTA: California Science Teachers Association Conference
One last break from winter in the midwest for Will — the California Science Teachers’ Association recently hosted their annual conference in sunny Pasadena. Will made the trip solo to introduce science educators from all across the great state of California to the exciting world of hands-on neuroscience. His message was Backyard Brain’s message: Neuroscience is the perfect blend of STEM and the Life Sciences, showing students the fascinating intersection of all the different disciplines they are studying.
We’re pushing onwards and finishing 2018 with a bang! We look forward to where our conference tour will take us next year. Have somewhere you think we should visit? Give us a shout on Twitter or email us at email@example.com!
The Open Hardware Symposium and our Exhibit Generated Excitement, Smiles, and Inspiration
Every year, Backyard Brains reaches farther and farther with our quest to spread DIY neuroscience, and this year, we hopped the pond to the largest neuroscience conference in Europe! Our experiments were a hit at the Forum of European Neuroscience (FENS) held in Berlin, Germany from July 7-11, 2018. Hosted by the German Neuroscience Society, the FENS conference brought together some of the greatest minds into the CityCube Berlin convention center for a week of brain-pumping excitement. Beginning with a presentation at the “Open Hardware Summit,” Backyard Brains set up shop for four days and sincerely WOWed hundreds of visitors. Will, our resident BYB mouthpiece, collected some social media highlights of the experience.
This was BYB’s first year attending the conference and we think we made a bit of a splash… Dr. Gage’s talk at the Open Hardware Summit generated a lot of excitement, which resulted in a lot of visits to our exhibit!
Following the caffeine drought of the first day (Seriously only one coffee kiosk in three halls? Thanks CityCube…) we found the energy to keep our neurons firing, doing demos and talking neurosci with all the incredibly passionate attendees at the show.
Fan Favorite for #SciComm:
If we had to pick a best in show, our Human-Human-Interface was tweeted and tagged over and over again #SCICOMM.
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!
A Neuroscientist’s Social Media Game is Fire…
But we weren’t the only ones showing off our experiments! Social Media was ablaze with @BackyardBrains tags as attendees and their colleagues shared videos of our experiments with their networks. We are a collective which prizes citizen science and grassroots, social-sharing of neuroscience like this is what we live for!
Here are some of the hits:
An Intentional Aesthetic?
We had a lack of tables, so we had to get creative…very DIY, very on-brand. We’ll call it an intentional design choice…. We are so grateful t0 everyone who paid us a visit and rolled up their sleeves for science, and we hope you keep Backyard Brains in mind for the future for any of your #SciComm, Outreach, K12 or Undergraduate Neuroscience Needs! Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or new ideas!
Will // The Plant Life Chose Me
STEM Ed Toys of the Future!
BYB’s adventures at Toy Fair 2018
Toy Fair is one of the largest gatherings of toy manufacturers, distributors, and buyers in the world, and in 2018, we threw our hat into the ring! We’ve been at this whole DIY Neuroscience thing in an educational space for almost 9 years, and we thought it was about time to test the waters in the consumer market, and Toy Fair was a great opportunity to do just that: we were in the room with giants like Hasbro and ThinkFun, learning how we could improve the toy factor of our science kits. Our table was situated in the “Launchpad” section of the conference where other companies new to Toy Fair were also showing off their offerings! (Will got a sneak peek at some of the hot new STEM Ed games hitting the shelves this year during his wanderings–just you wait for Killer Snails the Card Game!)
We did a lot of demos, we did presentations for press, and we did what we could to spread the good word: Neuroscience is here, it’s important, and it’s fun! A few local news stations featured us, helping amplify our voice. We demoed some new prototypes, and our stalwart Human-Human Interface was popular as usual. We were in new territory and a lot of people had never heard of us before, so it was a great opportunity to build new relationships and attract new attention.
Zach, our Development Engineer, said, “I enjoyed demoing to people who had never seen our kits before but are part of increasing the amount of STEM education tools. We received a lot of great feedback from others in the industry about their experiences and issues that we can avoid. It was also great to test out some of our new/updated products that we are developing.” Zach’s newest developments include the Neuron SpikerBox Pro and Muscle SpikerBox Pro, as well as the Plant SpikerBox, his little leafy baby.
His partner in crime at Toy Fair 2018 was Will, our resident Outreach Coordinator, poet, and maker of schpiels. He’s been getting people to roll their sleeves up for science for a long time now. He said of the show, “I’m pretty used to explaining our work to educators and scientists, so Toy Fair was a totally new experience. I wasn’t sure how non-scientists would react to the gear, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that everyone loved the kits and wanted to try them for themselves! It was exciting to show so many people, for the first time in their lives, real neuroscience experiments and recordings from their brains and nervous systems!”
Toy Fair was a big success for us. We tried on a toymaker’s hat to see if it fit, and who knows what the future will bring?