Designing Circuits for Neurodevices
A 2-Week Curriculum Unit for High School Physics Courses.
In this unit, students will investigate the phenomena of a how neurodevices work, bringing together electrical circuitry with the human nervous system. In this case, the human nervous system offers an input (such as a biosignal) that is used to control a machine or computer. Neurodevices, such as brain-computer interfaces, are technologies arising from the field of neural engineering. Neural engineering is an interdisciplinary branch of science and engineering which ties together aspects of biomedical, electrical, and mechanical engineering with computer science, neuroscience, and mathematics. In addition, neuroethicists consider the ethical implications of this work on patients and their families.
In Lesson 1: The Nervous System, students will view a demo of a robotic gripper hand that can be controlled by their own muscles (using EMG biosignals) and they will have time to discuss this phenomena with each other. Students will then learn about the basics of the nervous system by watching videos and will teach each other what they have learned. In Lesson 2: Circuits vs. the Nervous System, students will compare and contrast the nervous system to what they know already about circuitry and electricity. They will also experiment with their own nervous system and learn about and discuss the concept of plasticity. In Lesson 3: Neuroethics, students will evaluate their prior beliefs on neuroethics, watch a documentary, then go back and reevaluate their beliefs and how they have or have not changed after viewing. In Lesson 4: Productive Uncertainty in Science and Engineering, students will read an article on productive stupidity (uncertainty) and engage in a class discussion on what it means to be productively uncertain in a science classroom. They will end the lesson by filling out a chart that goes over the different combinations of behavior seen in a science and classroom settings. In Lesson 5: Device Design Challenge, students will design and build a working model of a device that uses circuits and is based on neural input that would help someone improve their everyday life. In Lesson 6: Design Challenge Presentations, students will present their posters and prototypes to the class.
Some of the lessons in this unit feature special equipment, including Snap Circuit kits and components.
This curriculum unit was enacted with students during the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years at Bethel High School in Spanaway, WA. Implementation occurred with Physics students each year. Feedback from students and their teacher was used to inform revisions to these materials.
Download the full PDF here. Download the individual lesson plans below.
- Unit Overview (includes information on alignment to national standards)
- Lesson 1: The Nervous System (1 55 min period)
- Lesson 2: Circuits vs. the Nervous System (1 55 min period)
- Lesson 3: Neuroethics (2 55 min periods)
- Lesson 4: Productive Uncertainty in Science and Engineering (1-2 55 min periods)
- Lesson 5: Device Design Challenge (4-6 55 min periods)
- Lesson 6: Design Challenge Presentations (1 55 min period)
The author of this unit has also been featured in this news article: A Far-reaching Impact: Teachers Design Curriculum to Empower the Next Generation of Engineers, Researchers, and Scientists
This curriculum unit is also available through the Link Engineering Educator Exchange.