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Neurorobot: Scientific Paper Published

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:

Next Steps

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 christopher@backyardbrains.com!


A Fun and Productive Teacher Training Workshop: These Teachers are Neuro-Nerds!

Following the previous success of our 3-day Teacher Training workshop at the end of the 2019 Calendar Year – we decided to kick-off 2020 with a free workshop for educators, open to all!

So we set a date… Jan 31st, shot out some emails, and hoped we wouldn’t be eating bagels and cream cheese alone in the office on the morning of the workshop! Far from alone, we had 10 passionate educators join us, from classroom teachers to curriculum designers and even graduate students involved in neuroscience outreach! Some came from local, Ann Arbor schools, and some drove much further, or even flew(!) to attend the event!

The day was booked well ahead of time. Our goal was to cover both intro and intermediate materials to enable these educators to improve how they teach both invertebrate and human physiology in their science outreach and in their STEM, Biology, and Neuroscience classes

Starting with some Invertebrate Physiology, the educators covered strategies for teaching science with Model Organisms, performed live neuron recordings from the cockroach leg prep, and practiced both introductory and advanced analytics approaches to better understand how the nervous system works and how we, as scientists, can begin quantifying electrical phenomena from within the nervous system.

Then we dove into some human physiology experiments, covering muscle activity, reflexes, and reaction times! These labs are quick and quantifiable, and the educators experience first-hand how they can be used to unpack a lot of big ideas in a short amount of time! For example, reactions and reflexes are different… but why? And a much broader question, how does “information” get from a to b? What is the speed(s) of information?

And of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without some hands-on time with the Human-Human Interface! This inspired shock, laughter, and intrigue from all the attendees. It really is an experience that needs to be felt to be believed.

Everyone agreed – it was a productive day! The educators responded that the material we covered would not only help them teach NEUROSCIENCE better, but it gave them strategies to teach SCIENCE better!

Our next opportunity for a shorter-form introductory training session is a February Webinar. Click this link or the image below to register, and keep an eye out on our blog for future opportunities!

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Reserve your Spot: Teacher Training Workshop (January 31st)

This is a call to arms for science educators everywhere…

Following the success of our three-day teacher training workshop at the end of 2019, and our Summer 2019 Workshop on Reactions and Reflexes, we want to kick off 2020 with the next FREE workshop open to the public!

This workshop is coming up quick… so reserve your spot soon! Space is limited, but we will work to accommodate as many as we can.

When: January 31st, 9am-6pm

Where: Downtown Ann Arbor, MI.

The Workshop!

As a participant, you will engage in a full day of programming designed to help you on your way to becoming a domain expert in neuroscience education! This workshop will provide an introduction to each of our Flagship products, giving you hands-on experience recording from Invertebrates and the human heart, brain, eyes, and muscles.

Who should attend?

If you are a teacher who wants to bring the cutting edge to your classroom, this is for you! If you aren’t content with teaching the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again, we want to support you as you continue to innovate in your classroom.

This workshop is great for:

  • Middle School Science and STEM
  • High School Biology (Intro and Advanced)
  • High School Anatomy and Physiology
  • Interdisciplinary Courses
  • Science Dept. Leaders
  • Administrators seeking the next big thing!

No prior experience with our tools or labs required, but both beginners and old pro’s will take away valuable lessons and actionable ideas from the workshop!

You will learn…

Our first priority is in giving to the skills and knowledge needed to confidently bring these resources back to your classroom to help engage your students in this cutting-edge field of STEM education. You will receive hands-on training with the Backyard Brains tools, you will perform introductory experiments under the guidance of our trained staff and company co-founder, and finally, you will practice presenting your findings and teaching this new content because we believe teaching is the best way to learn.

Glowing Testimonials

We’ve received glowing feedback from our previous workshops! Here’s a few highlights:

“Thank you for the work you are doing to help us bring neuroscience to not just our students, but nationwide. Citizen science is an amazing tool for educators to use in the formation and creation of budding scientists — drawing out both the students that didn’t even know they were interested in school, by intriguing and igniting a curiosity they didn’t know they had, as well as sparking a new interest in discovery for your standard “good student” as well.” – Texas Teacher Attending Dec 2019 Workshop

“This is one of the best workshops I have attended. I am quite ‘demanding’ in what I expect when I attend for free and attend on a weekend … this workshop FAR exceeded my expectations and the lessons will be incorporated into my curriculum immediately. Thanks for all your efforts!” – California Teacher attending Jul 2019 Workshop

The Cost: Free!?

We know teachers are frugal by necessity, and the last thing you want to include in your request for a PD day and travel expenses for attending a workshop is that glaring “Cost to Attend: $$$” – which is why we offer our teacher training workshops for free!

If you already have gear back in your classroom, great! We will help you become a power-user. If you don’t have any Backyard Brains gear yet, we recommend The Toolbox, which contains one of each of our flagship products, which will all be featured in our workshop.