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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
Hot off the presses! Read all about it! Mantis Shrimp Wrangler Extraordinaire Dan has been published!
Backyard Brains Senior Fellow Dan Pollack has had his research published in JUNE, the Journal for Undergraduate Neuroscience Education: “An Electrophysiological Investigation of Power-Amplification in the Ballistic Mantis Shrimp Punch.” The paper offers a rundown of Dan’s research, culminating in a template laboratory exercise for use in classrooms, studying the electrophysiology of power-amplified limb movement in arthropods, with a specific focus on mantis shrimp strikes. How do mantis shrimps punch so hard, and how can we study the phenomena in the classroom?
Scientific publications are a bit more formal than our preferred mode of “sharing the good word” of DIY Neuroscience–our TED videos are a great example of our normal route. But, scientific publications are a currency of authority, and they do offer the opportunity to lay out, very precisely, why we think that students around the world should study neuroscience!
In the past, we have published the results of our own DIY neuroscience research, as well as the research of our students and fellows, but the publication we are excited to share today is a little bit different!
This argumentative piece by our co-founder Dr. Greg Gage presents an argument for why neuroscience isn’t just a fun and engaging subject in K12, but it is rather a critically important subject that must be addressed if we want to see real progress and change in the future of neuroscience research.
From the paper, Greg argues,
“One in five people will have a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives (World Health Organization, 2013), and the economic costs of these disorders are staggering. Many of these disorders do not have approved treatments or are in need of newer, more effective ones to be developed. In order to accomplish this, basic and translational research is needed to increase our collective knowledge of the principles that govern brain function. Given the importance of this research to society, it seems odd that the only way to study the nervous system has been to enroll as a neuroscience graduate student. “
Obviously, we think that that’s bogus, which is why we do the work that we do at Backyard Brains. You don’t need grad school to get started learning about neuroscience! In fact, we have lots of examples of students in Middle School and High School tackling big questions in neuroscience!
And lastly… it’s worth mentioning that if you are a teacher or a student attempting to make YOUR CASE for why your school should be teaching hands-on neuroscience, this is a fantastic resource for you. Take advantage of the journalistic prestige of Neuron and single-author papers to help make your argument. And let us know what we can do to help!