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Can Neuroscience Help You Fence Better? Middle-School Scientist Wins State Science Fair Using SpikerBox

can neuroscience help you fence better
Supriya and Sujit Nair establishing a new fencing technique: Neurofencing

Every fencer will hear it countless times: warm-ups are a MUST. Do them and they’ll bump up your performance. Skip them and you may end up hurting yourself.

But not every fencer will ask why! Supriya Nair, a busy sixth-grader from Redmond, WA, decided to conduct an experiment and find out what the correlation is between exercise and performance in her favorite sport. Where other people see a self-evident truth that doesn’t need any questioning, this scientifically-minded middle-schooler saw a hypothesis that she can poke through to test it, quantify it, and prove it!

And what better way to do that than to: 

  1. sport a set of electrodes of a Neuron SpikerBox to capture an EMG signal from her right hand and right leg as she lunges,
  2. measure her muscles’ reaction time from rest to touche in controlled circumstances, with and without 15-minute warm-ups, and compare the findings.

The results came in and won her the First Place Trophy at the annual Washington State Science and Engineering Fair and a nomination for this year’s Broadcom Masters, STEM competition for the nation’s top talented middle-schoolers!

Neurofencing: How It All Began

I’d always hear it from coaches that I needed to do pre-bout exercise. But there was no quantitative data that would support it, just qualitative. And frankly, I was not very disciplined in warm-ups,” Supriya told us in a Zoom interview. That’s how she came up with the idea to eavesdrop on her muscles’ electrical activity using the SpikerBox her dad got her, and measure it to see whether it adds up to the hypothesis. And boom! Pre-bout exercise lasting only 15 minutes can improve a fencer’s performance by a whopping 15%, she discovered.

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Brains! 7th Grade Teacher Training at UChicago Brings Neuroscience to Middle Schoolers

This past summer, we worked with teachers and educators during a number of workshops to help empower them to bring DIY Neuroscience to their classrooms. One workshop, hosted by one of our colleagues at University of Chicago, brought Backyard Brains tools and training to 7th grade teachers in the Chicago area.

Taken from the National Center of Brain Mapping Site (who helped make this training possible!):

“Hands-on Training : During this fun four-day workshop, middle school teachers will learn a hands-on, inquiry based curriculum all about sensing and the brain. Teachers will work in collaborative teams and have opportunities to adapt activities to their unique classroom environments. The curriculum is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. Engaging University of Chicago scientists will present basic “Neuroscience 101” instruction as well as hot new topics in neuroscience research.”

To learn more about the event, you can read about it on the NCBM website here.

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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?*

https://twitter.com/jamibronson/status/1136623858725916674

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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