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Neuroscience for Everyone!

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Brain Awareness Week

Every year in late March, scientists across the world band together to participate in Brain Awareness week, an extended event created by The Society for Neuroscience and Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives to expose kids to neuroscience research. It is a week-long celebration of the brain, really, with participants ranging from universities to government agencies in over 120 countries! Here at Backyard Brains, we are all about hands-on neuroscience education, so we’ve put together a list of some of our Greatest Hits experiments to spice up your week!

There are a lot of typical experiments used as a go-to for talking about the brain and introducing kids to thinking about it, like looking at cross-sections of sheep brains or listening to a talk on neurons, but what if you don’t have any sheep brains on hand? We have found that the best way to get kids excited about the brain is to get them into really interactive experiments, ones where they can move things and see reactions in real time, and this is the basis of our Muscle/Neuroengineering line of products.

At Backyard Brains, we are always striving to make neuroscience accessible, and our demonstrations are some of the best ways to do that! Often when we are at conferences, we call on civilians approaching our booth to help us out as we showcase a new experiment, proving that neuroscience is truly for everyone. Here are some experiments that we have noticed are some of the biggest crowd-pleasers.

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November Conferences

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 hello@backyardbrains.com!


Backyard Brains Fellowship 2018

Call for Undergraduates in Biology or Engineering Fields:

Are you a neuroscience nerd? Do you want to learn how the brains of animals like squids or dragonflies work? Is your background in Electrical, Mechanical or Computer Engineering? Want to develop your own innovative experiments and publish your results? Learn to communicate those stunning results with the public? Maybe even all of the above? Then you’re in luck!

2017 Fellows from left to right: Top: Greg Gage (Not a fellow), Zach, Jaimie, Spencer, Nathan, Ilya. Bottom: Joud, Christy, Haley.

The Backyard Brains Summer Research Fellowship is an intensive 10 week program for undergraduates to participate in hands-on neuroscience research and experiment design with award winning neuroscientists. This is the 5th year of running our prestigious (and paid) summer program and this year it will run from May 21, 2018 to Aug 3, 2018 in Downtown Ann Arbor, MI.   All applications must be received by noon eastern time (12:00 PM, EST) on March 22, 2018 to be eligible. We will be notifying applicants of their status by March 29, 2018.

 

Apply to the Summer Fellowship Today!

 

 

This is our 5th iteration of the program, and it just gets better every year. Like a fine wine! Our summer fellowship program is run much like a graduate school laboratory. All participants will be working on their own independent research projects for the whole summer.  We will have daily journal clubs to go over key papers and expand knowledge in the area, and each participant will be trained how to develop their own experiments and to build their own devices to perform those experiments.  You, future BYB scientist, will be collecting data, analyzing it, and presenting your results.

The end result of your summer fellowship will be a publishable experiment and video for our website, as well as a poster to be delivered at Undergraduate Research Poster Session of the Society for Neuroscience.  In 2017, all of our participants presented their research at a Undergraduate Research conference and some were selected to be posters at the Society for Neuroscience Conference. We also brought home the hardware to show for the hard work: all of our research fellows will be featured in a new TED show called “DIY Neuroscience,” which will begin airing on March 14. We will work with each student to prepare a 10 minute TED-style talk for a public event in Ann Arbor, with the possibility of presenting at our annual TEDx event. We have also worked with students to continue refining their experiment writeups into manuscripts in order to publish first-authored papers in peer-reviewed journals.

 

Apply to the Summer Fellowship Today!

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