Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
James Dann, Menlo School, Atherton, CA
I will be describing a new kind of class that combines making, physics and biology. The class takes a three prong approach to the learning of Neuroscience (traditional lecture and study, cutting edge experiments on the nervous system of insects and modeling of the nervous system using electronics and microcontrollers). Students make functioning body parts to deepen their understanding of neuroscience and the human body. In addition, students conduct physics type experiments on insects using probes, oscilloscopes and Op-Amp circuit boards (constructed by Backyard Brains) in order to conduct experiments on insects and their nervous systems. Finally, Students will use a microcontroller to program there own model brain which will give them insights into how the brain might work in the context of learning and memory. Course description: In this course you will explore one of mankind’s greatest unknowns… the brain and nervous system. You will take an adventure that is thought only possible in fictional writing like Frankenstein and along the way you will learn electronics, experimental techniques and neurobiology. This is a hands-on class, where you explore the fascinating topic of how the brain and peripheral nervous system work by studying the electrical signals in cockroaches, grasshoppers and earthworms as you touch different parts of its body and submit it to different odors. From these experiments, articles and classroom discussions you will learn intimately how the nervous system works and as much as we can infer about the brain. In addition, you will learn enough electronics to build your own circuit that will enable to you to make the live grasshopper move based on your commands! Finally, we will dive into how the brain might do learning and conduct experiments on cockroaches to understand better how they learn and make connections to the model brains we construct by programming microcontrollers.