[FUN_Mail] Redux: Gauge of interest in Electronic Neuron kits for teaching

Joseph Burdo joseph.burdo at bc.edu
Tue Jan 5 16:06:08 EST 2016

> Hi all, one follow up to the email I sent 11 months ago about our neuron
simulators and then I'll move the conversation off list for anyone
interested. If you remember, an engineering colleague (Zach Fredin) and I
were working on designing and building hardware-based electronic neurons
for educational use. Each module simulates an individual neuron, and the
modules can be physically connected to build neural networks. I'm happy to
report that as of January 1st, we're being funded by an NSF small business
grant (SBIR) to help get our company (NeuroTinker) up and running! In April
we will be putting our NeuroBytes (the simulator name) in front of several
hundred A&P students at UW-Milwaukee with the help of Anj Petto. They will
be learning about the patellar tendon reflex by building it out of 3D
printed bones, servo motors to simulate the muscles, and our NeuroBytes to
act as sensory, motor, and interneurons. A video of our prototype version
is here <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDk9s16FG2o> if you're interested.

We have an alpha version of the NeuroBytes which is quasi-functional, but
Zach and I are now working on the NeuroBytes version that will go in front
of the students, and eventually any and all who would like to use them in
and out of the classroom (we are planning both educational and edutainment
uses). Rather than prattle on here about how they work and our future
plans, I'll point you to our website <http://www.neurotinker.com>, our Twitter
feed <https://twitter.com/NeuroTinker>, and our Facebook
<https://www.facebook.com/neurotinker/?fref=nf> page to keep up to date
with us if you're interested. Our website has a contact page
<http://www.neurotinker.com/contact/> so we can send you updates if wish,
which would help us stay organized (we never share email addresses with
anyone else).

What I would like to solicit from those of you who may be interested
are *features
that you would like to see* in the NeuroBytes. We are planning on two
separate versions, basic and fancy for lack of better terminology right
now, and kits that would incorporate both of them. Basic may have one RGB
LED to indicate membrane potential and action potential firing (sort of
like how our existing alpha version currently works
<https://youtu.be/LGGtXNzil-U>), and be suitable for processing a few
dendritic inputs and axonal outputs, interfacing with environmental sensors
(mechanical switches ala knee jerk reflex, light sensors, sound sensors,
there are numerous options), and controlling motor outputs. Fancy versions
(one prototype is on our website front page) may incorporate more inputs
and outputs for environmental processing, more/better/flashier ways to
indicate membrane potential and firing, memory simulations via modifiable
synaptic strength, ability for students and educators to program their own
neuron behavior using Arduino or C+ language, these are just a few ideas
we're kicking around. But, *what would be useful to you*?

Please don't reply to the entire list, if you're interested you can email
me at joe at neurotinker.com rather than my Boston College address please.

Thanks so much!

Joe Burdo

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