Community Partnerships

Blocks Rock!

It was hard to tell who had more fun - the children at the Boys & Girls Club or the psychology majors who volunteered to participate in a 6-week educational program.

Blocks Rock! is a competitive and educational game where two players compete to build a color-and shape-specific structure in the shortest amount of time. Research has been conducted by Dr. Sharlene Newman from IU's PBS Department suggesting that this game enhances visuo-spatial learning. 

Student volunteers have presented the Blocks Rock! program for two semesters, thus far. 

Monroe County Fall Festival Education Day

PBS Outreach Coordinator Mike Jackson had a peculiar proposition for children and parents who passed by his booth at the Marci Jane Lewis Park in Ellettsville at Monroe County Education Day, "Do you want to move a car with your brain?While it sounded like something from a sci-fi movie, Jackson was able to deliver on his promise to teach telekinesis to those attending the festival. 

Instead of using a standard remote trigger to power slot cars around a race track, the children used commercial electroencephalogram, or EEG, headsets that measure the brain’s electrical activity. The headsets were connected to the track via Bluetooth using a tiny microcontroller. The EEG scans for the brain waves produced when a person is in a relaxed, focused state, and that brain activity is converted into electrical power to move the cars around the track.

Some participants were able to move the car a short distance and others sent it around the track at top speed! Everyone got to experience the connection between mind and brain.

Your Amazing Brain Exhibition

Eight years of planning led by Dr. Lisa Thomassen culminated in the "Your Amazing Brain Exhibition" at the WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology in Bloomington. 

Psychological and Brain Sciences Faculty created a variety of hands-on learning exhibits. Children learned about MRI technology with the teddy bear scanner, courtesy of Professors Aina Puce and Karin James. They peeked at a series neurons under a microscope, courtesy of Professor Joseph Farley and practiced the art of matching fingerprints that Professor Tom Busey has studied in his lab. They compared the brains of animals across the animal kingdom, straight from the lab of Dale Sengelaub and observed the clever tricks your senses can play on you with the “mask depth-perception illusion,” courtesy of Jim Craig.

Celebrate Science Indiana

Professor Ehren Newman and student research assistants increased "brain awareness" at the Celebrate Science Indiana event at the Indiana State Fair. 

Visitors, a majority of whom were families with school-aged children, learned about variability in brain morphology (size & shape) by examining real brains from a variety of animals in jars. Children and parents were encouraged to guess what animal they thought each brain might have come from, by way of showing how brain size varies with body size. 

Newman's team taught curious visitors simple neuro-anatomy, showing the part of the brain that allows us to see versus the region that allows us to smell. All could clearly see the difference between the 'thinking-bits' (i.e., dark matter) and the 'telephone wiring bits' (i.e., white matter) that allow the thinking bits to talk. 

PBS scientists demonstrated a brain-computer-interface on site. Such interfaces are possible because our brains use electricity of sorts to think. Discussion about possible future neurotechnology were stimulated by asking visitors, "What would you do if you could control anything by just thinking about it?"