Last school year we worked with teachers across the country to help bring real, meaningful neuroscience lessons into their classrooms. From 5th grade to university, educators and students loved learning about how the brain works, how we study the brain, and how we engineer devices that can be controlled by the brain!
One educator, in particular, had a compelling project for her students.
This year, we were excited to release two new kits in concert with our Muscle SpikerBox Pro, kits that are designed to help capture very precise data about reflexes (The Reflex Hammer) and reactions (The Reaction Timer). It didn’t take long for students to start getting their hands on these tools, and we are excited today to present the results of one classroom’s research which was enabled by these tools!
Juli D. and her Anatomy and Physiology class were interested in studying reactions and reflexes, first by studying reaction times in “distracted driving” scenarios, and then by coming up with experimental procedures to see what variables may affect reflexes.
Juli shared a lot of pictures and information about her and her students’ work this summer, made possible by a Michigan education grant from Tri-County Electric! From Juli:
“Tri-County Electric offered us a grant of $2000 to purchase muscle spiker boxes and reaction timers. The purpose was to have students develop a lab that would test how reaction times change with distractions while driving. Backyard Brains graciously worked with us through some kinks and even supplied us with new equipment to expand our research into how reflexes change with different temperatures.
This University of Michigan student team developed a way to control a drone with a new kind of controller…
We work with students of all ages — from outreach to early elementary, to hands-on demonstrations, labs, and even research with students from fifth grade to… well, grad school and beyond!
We wanted to share this novel and exciting project which is the result of a group of Aerospace Engineering students who had an exciting question: Can we fly a plane, or at least a drone, with our thoughts?
It wasn’t an easy project, but with very minimal support on our end, they were able to get a prototype up and running within just the few weeks allotted to the project!
But how does it work?
The students took advantage of two signals that you can record using the Heart and Brain SpikerBox – First, EEG (Electroencephalograms, or brain waves) could be used to “wake up” the drone (take off / ready) by opening your eyes, or “put it to sleep” (land / standby) by closing your eyes. This works because, when you record from your occipital lobe, alpha waves are present when your eyes are closed, and “disappear” when they are open – a phenomenon which the students leveraged for their “On/Off” switch.
Then they used EOG signals (Electrooculograms, from your eyes!) to tell the drone to move in different directions depending on if you are looking up, down, left, or right. This is possible thanks to the different electrical signals recorded when you look in different directions.
They were able to do this in real time, creating a very creative control scheme that could be applied to other devices as well. The sky is the limit for the future of this project! Or maybe not just the sky… maybe space isn’t even a limit anymore for students these days!