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Building the BrainCo STEM Kit

If you haven’t heard by now, I am a huge fan of all things BrainCo.

As a tech startup, BrainCo has developed a variety of cognitive training technology products, and in their work, their engineers combine machine learning, design, and neuroscience to design, create, and build innovative cognitive-based applications.

In education, BrainCo is making big strides with the introduction of their STEM Kit.

The Story Behind BrainCo

If you missed my last blog post about BrainCo and the STEM Kit, you can check it out here, but here’s the basic idea…

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. suffer from amputations and limb loss (Amputee Coalition). Surprised by this statistic? So was I.

Experts and engineers at BrainCo developed the BrainRobotics AI Dexus Prosthetic in response to this need, and in doing so, they have been able to provide amputees with an accessible, affordable, and high-tech solution.

The BrainRobotics AI Dexus Prosthetic combines AI, neuroscience, and more to give amputees the ability to control a prosthetic naturally with their own brain and muscle signals.

When I heard this story for the first time, I was blown away. Truly.

But the story gets so much better… BrainCo didn’t stop there.

Their engineers began wondering how they could inspire and educate the next generation of students to tackle the real-world challenges that society faces. In combining authentic learning pedagogy and insight from experts in both engineering and education, BrainCo created authentic learning experience for students.

They call it the STEM Kit.

… And the Story Behind the STEM Kit

The STEM Kit brings technology, experience-based learning, pedagogy, and engineering into the classroom. With The STEM Kit, BrainCo has been able to transform the real-life challenges that their engineers face into authentic learning experiences for students

This kit consists of both hands-on hardware and connection to real engineers, guiding students through the learning process about themes like neuroscience, body systems, biomedical technology, and prosthetics. 

The STEM Kit Curriculum

Before I use educational products with my students, I always like to test them out myself. I do this with robotics, apps, and even project-based learning lessons.

When I received my BrainCo STEM Kit in the mail, I couldn’t wait to try it out. Let me just tell you guys… it did NOT disappoint! I’m already dreaming up ways to incorporate it in the classroom.

Specifically, when I was building the kit, I kept thinking about the design thinking framework and how I can use that to help guide student learning:

  • Empathize: How can students understand the people and issues they are trying to solve? How can students empathize with amputees and better understand the need and problem?
  • Define: How can students properly define the problem? How can they practice needfinding?
  • Ideate: How can students brainstorm different ways of solving this problem? What ideas do they have? What have they learned from empathizing and defining?
  • Prototype: What things can students create to test their solution to this problem? How can they test their prosthetic prototypes?
  • Test: Does their solution solve the problem? How does the prosthetic provide amputees with an accessible solution?

Even beyond this framework, BrainCo provides a curriculum guide alongside their kit, which can help teachers plan and facilitate student learning in powerful ways.

Curriculum Modules and Building the STEM Kit

This curriculum guide contains six key modules:

  1. Project Guided Assembly
  2. Biotech and Biomedical Exploration
  3. Engineering Design
  4. Life and Physical Sciences
  5. Introduction to Programming
  6. INeuroMaker Creative Challenge

Each module is broken down into a set of lessons that are all aligned with authentic learning principles and educational standards (i.e. K-12 Framework for Computer Science, CSTA, ISTE, NGSS and CCSS).

For the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to focus specifically on Module #1: Project Guided Assembly. This module acts as a prerequisite for the rest of the curricular units, as it consists of students assembling the entire STEM Kit.

Module #1: Project Guided Assembly

In this module, students start with the basics: learning about mechanical and electrical engineering through a manual build of their kits.

Since I completed the kit on my own, my process looked slightly different, but for students, I’d recommend dividing students up into groups, giving each group a kit of disassembled mechanical, electrical, and control parts.

Then, students can work closely with each other and collaborate to complete the build.

I built the kit in about 2 hours, but I’d recommend breaking it up over the course of 3-4 45 min sessions.

Based on my personal experience building the kit, I found it to be the perfect balance of manageable and challenging. The directions that BrainCo provides gives students the perfect amount of scaffolding.

Students have a blueprint to follow while building the kit, but they will still encounter setbacks that require them to problem-solve and collaborate.

Key Takeaways and Big Ideas

What I love about the curriculum guide is that it clearly outlines for teachers what the big ideas and key takeaways are for students. This module specifically has three main guiding questions:

  • What is mechanical and electrical engineering?
  • What are microcontrollers and how do they interact with other materials?
  • How do I designate and accept tasks for my team?

Then, after completing the build, students will be able to identify real-world elements of a prosthetic, and more broadly, a technology product. Students will be able to identify elements like controllers, motors, sensors, power sources, breadboards, and more.

Students will then be able to categorize and define such hardware based on electrical and mechanical components.

If you didn’t watch the video at the start of this blog post, you should definitely watch it now 🙂

Why You Need the BrainCo STEM Kit

The STEM Kit gives students a hands-on, authentic experience that empowers them to have ownership over their own learning. With the BrainCo STEM Kit, students collaborate, iterate, prototype, test, explore, tinker, and grow.

There are really dozens of reasons why you need the BrainCo STEM Kit in your classroom next school year, but one specific reason really hits home for me…

Students and teachers are co-learners. They learn with and from each other.

A learning experience truly doesn’t get more authentic than this.

For a complete list of reasons why you need the BrainCo STEM Kit in your classroom next year, be on the lookout for my upcoming blog post. And a big thank you to the engineers and educators at BrainCo who continue to make impactful and innovative change in the world!

I

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