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Introducing Backyard Brains

On November 3 more than 100 Ector County ISD students – groups from each middle school and high school – spent a couple of hours with Dr. Greg Gage and were introduced to the workings of the brain in some very unique ways!

 

Dr. Gage is a well-known TED speaker and TED Fellow, and in 2013 the White House named him one of its Champions for Change. He is also one of the co-founders of “Backyard Brains” a Do-It-Yourself neuroscience initiative for kids that uses off-the-shelf electronics in kits that give insight into the workings of the nervous system. ECISD is now in the process of rolling out “Backyard Brains” kits to all of its secondary schools. The kits use a small SpikerBox to read neuron activity, and when hooked up to a speaker the impulses can be heard, while spikes caused by stimuli can be seen on an iPad or other device.

 
Dr. Gage's presentation  
 
 

Dr. Gage’s presentation started with cutting off the leg of a cockroach and studying the neuron activity of that insect, and closed with a demonstration of how tapping into one student's neuron impulses from the brain can allow that student to control another's movement! Here is a video of that demonstration!

 

After hearing Dr. Gage’s presentation the students learned how to use the SpikerBoxes themselves, and now they are tasked with taking that knowledge back to their own schools to teach their classmates. Dr. Gage told the students, scientists still know relatively little about the brain, and he wants them to come up with their own questions about brain activity, study it through “Backyard Brains” and share their findings with others from around the country and the world who are also contributing to this work.

 

That’s the goal of ECISD’s PICK Education – to introduce students to real life scientists and real life research & discover, and to turn them loose to study it and contribute to it! The effort is beginning to get noticed for its innovation: see these recent news stories - CBS 7, World News Report (via OA).

 

You will find an album of pictures from the day here on our Ector County ISD Facebook page.




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