Photos: Brown Brain Fair makes brain science fun for everyone

PROVIDENCE, RI [Brown University] — For Providence resident Luisa Rodriguez, planning a weekend family outing that was both fun and educational was a no-brainer. She and hundreds of other Rhode Islanders filled a Saturday in mid-March with scientific discovery, hands-on experience and learning through play at the 2023 Brown Brain Fair.

Held on the university’s campus at Brown’s Engineering Research Center as part of Rhode Island Brain Week, the annual free all-ages event brought together scientists, researchers and volunteers from over 28 Brown’s labs and science centers to offer families the chance to learn about brain science with games, hands-on demonstrations and hands-on exhibits.

Rodriguez took part in the weekend event to inspire and entertain his 6-year-old daughter, Gabriela Sanchez, who has a natural curiosity about science and medicine.

“Ever since she was little, she’s always been interested in the human body or anything related to science,” Rodriguez said. “Events like this can help deepen her interests by encouraging her to ask questions, be curious, and inspire her to want to know more about how things work.”

Interactive family-oriented demonstrations and hands-on exhibits ranged from psychology to brain anatomy. Dozens of tables, booths and stalls had been set up in the Hazeltine Lobby. Brown researchers and students ranging from undergraduate to postgraduate were posted around the room to engage visitors, answer questions, share brain facts and debunk common brain myths.

Children and adults were invited to try virtual reality glasses, manipulate a preserved human brain and have their brain waves measured. At one of the stations, run by scientists involved in the BrainGate research program, visitors could control a state-of-the-art robotic arm to learn how brain-computer interface technology allows a person to control a external device using its brain signals. Other activity stations featured microscopes that offered insight into brain microtissues, and computer screens showed images of brain signals and three-dimensional diagrams of the whole brain.

Last held in 2019, the Brown Brain Fair is organized and run by student group Brown Brain Bee, in partnership with Brown’s Carney Institute for Brain Science, to educate and inspire people to learn more about the human brain.

Providence resident Rachel Briggs was among the group of intellectuals who attended the fair. She came to Brown Brain Fair to “see the bodies inside our bodies”, but also wanted to expose her 9-year-old daughter, Zaharae, to new ideas and opportunities, including a potential career in science.

“We don’t know what they’re going to be yet, and the exhibit may start to move things in one direction,” Briggs said. “I hope they see something, share something, watch something, and then it will be a catalyst for everything they do in their lives.”

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