This fall, we worked with two Michigan Public Libraries to bring a “DIY Neuroprosthetics Workshop” to local communities. The workshops were designed to introduce students and interested adults to the fundamentals of neuroscience: The experience began with participants recording their first Action Potential with the Neuron SpikerBox, then seeing the electrical activity of the brain and muscles, to finally controlling The Claw and other humans with the Human-Human Interface!
Backyard Brains was excited to participate in this years “Mini-Maker Faire,” hosted by the Ann Arbor District Library in downtown Ann Arbor. We enjoy attending these events, as they are a great opportunity to see what other members of the community are creating! The crowd was a mix of children, students, teachers, makers, enthusiasts, and total beginners to the maker community!
This year we invited our Summer Fellows along. We think teaching is a great way to reinforce what you know and to learn what you don’t know, so we sent them off into the crucible of public scrutiny to forge themselves into hardened scientific demonstrators… Or, more accurately, we told them to bring their experiments and some BYB kits and just share what they were working on with the attendees of the faire! Much of the day was spent “playing” with younger kids who were just excited to see science experiments, but many of the older kids, their parents, and community members were fascinated with the science behind our Human-Human-Interface and Muscle SpikerBox. These inquisitive minds always lead to two-way conversations, and we learned and taught a lot!
The fellows had a great time, and wanted to share a couple of thoughts about the experience!
Nathan: I was very impressed by how young kids tried to understand the mechanism of our SpikerShield demonstration. They picked up the concept of the neuronal activity quickly and asked many interesting questions such as the applications of the SpikerShield, the path to becoming a neuroscientist, and so on. We definitely brought the NeuroRevolution to the maker’s fair. Neuroscience for everyone!
Joud: “I don’t want to be controlled!” We started the morning with this stubborn kid who managed to force his sister and dad to sit and have their hands twitching and moving, then we met to two hilarious sisters who spent 10 minutes laughing insanely while experimenting with the human to human interface; the least I can say is: I love Neuroscience! I could indeed see the motto of BYB “neuroscience for everyone” and the “NeuroRevolution” happening in front of my eyes, as I observed the fascination on people’s faces. Parents were asking about how their kids can get involved with BYB over the summer, others kids were plotting how to take over the world with our cool devices, and one father specifically asked: “So, what’s the plan now? Are we going to see “become the actual Iron Man” kits in markets soon?” Well, who knows …
Spencer: This summer’s maker faire was full of characters, all who were interested in our experiments in their own unique way. The very first participant of the day got controlled with the human-to-human interface, stared at his arm for a while, and looked right at me. “I can feel my Spirit being separated from my body, ya know what I mean?” I nodded with acquiescence. “Yeah, like the spiritual electrical energy that’s normally in my arm here moved up to my neck.” He walked around in bewilderment, inspecting his arm as he left the room and came back two or three times. “It really changes your view, like who are we? That’s crazy man.” I too hope to someday grasp the level of existential insightfulness the Backyard Brains’ products have to offer.
Jaimie: Best by far was a smart little girl, maybe 7 years old, with some sass. When asked by her dad to come back to our table later, she huffs and says “No, the line is just going to get longer.” She then turned to me and said, “I have to tell him that because I know that if we don’t do it now, we will end up somewhere else and run out of time and he won’t let me come back to try it, so it’s better to just do it now.” All I could do was laugh, because she was probably right. She then proceeded to control her dad’s arm with the human to human interface. That street smart, little scientist is going places.
Ilya: Teaching kids how to solder felt a lot like what I imagine it feels like trying to be a good parent. You want the child to learn, to get excited that they managed this Herculean task of constructing a working electrical circuit, but at the same time you want nothing but to take the 700-degree soldering iron away from them. “What if they burn themselves? What if they burn someone else!? What if they burn both themselves and someone else!?!?” screams your brain, “Just solder it for them, it’s safer that way”. In the end, there were only one or two kids that needed me to hold the soldering iron for them, for everyone else the warning of “imagine touching a frying pan that’s on fire” seemed to suffice.