In this activity, we will be introducing the participants to the concepts of brain functions, basic circuitry, and beginner-level coding. We will have participants use their hands to construct a Brain Map Hat to offer some hands-on circuitry experience while supporting the lesson on brain operations. Lastly, participants will have the opportunity to design and augment a game on Scratch. After this, the group can take part in a gallery walk to share each other’s ideas.
Codemakers, Actua, Google.org, Canada, 2019
To Do in Advance
- In preparation for the Brain Map Hat activity, complete the following prep steps:
- Cut copper tape strips, 10 per participant – 10 cm length
- Cut aluminum foil squares, 2 per participant – to cover temporal lobe on Brain Map Hat
- Cut foam paper squares, 1 per participant – to cover aluminum foil squares
- To prepare in advance for part 2, have computers ready to access Scratch, either downloaded or online. Also, make sure to open the Brain Hat Connections Scratch file, and the Brain Hat Game file, on each computer.
- Before beginning, refer to Appendix A (Brain lobe function map) and discuss with participants their knowledge about how the human brain works, and the lobes and corresponding functions of the human brain.
- Depending on the group size, the activity can be run as one large group or multiple small groups. Participants will line up, single file, to represent a neuron, and they will be transmitting a message down the line.
- At the start, if the line, whisper a brain lobe (temporal, parietal, etc.P – with or without the corresponding function, depending on participant age/ability. Participants then whisper this command down the line (similar to the game “telephone”).
- When the command reaches the last person in the line, they must act out an action that matches the brain lobe/function. If correct, the signal was accurately passed on, and that group (or lobe) wins the round. Rotate so that all participants have a chance to be the actor.
- Discuss how this activity models what actually happens in the brain when a message is passed via neurons. Make connections to the brain lobes and functions before moving on to Part 1: Brain map hat.
Section 1: Brain Map Hats
- Cut out the Brain Map Hat template (Appendix A) and assemble by cutting on the dotted lines, sliding one side over the other so that the dotted line meets the solid line. Secure with tape.
- Secure the Brain Map Hat to a work surface by inflating a balloon to the size that fits within the Hat. Tape the Hat to the balloon, then the balloon to the table.
- Cut a hole the size of the coin battery near the bottom of the piece of foam paper.
- Glue a piece of aluminum foil over one of the temporal lobes on the brain hat. This will be the origin for conducting the copper tape paths that connect the negative side of the coin battery to the LEDs.
- To assemble the negative track for each LED, run pieces of copper tape (10cm long) from the aluminum foil across each lobe of the brain, making sure that one of the tape lines touch each other.
- Glue the piece of foam paper on top of the aluminum foil (this will also cover the copper tape that originates there).
- Glue another piece of aluminum foil on top of the paper. This will be the origin for conducting the copper tape that connects the positive side of the coin battery to the LEDs.
- To assemble the positive track for each LED, rin pieces of copper tape (10cm long) from the aluminum foil across each lobe of the brain, making sure that none of the tape tracks touch each other. These tracks should be parallel to the negative tracks and should have a very small space between them so that the LED can be properly attached.
- Attach an LED light to each lobe by sticking one LED at a point along each track. Make sure to leave a small space between the origin and the coin battery.
- To test out the bain map hat, make sure the LEDs light up – insert the coin battery into the small hole in the foam paper. Make sure that the negative end of the battery is facing inward, so it is in contact with the negative copper tape tracks, and the positive end of the battery end of the battery faces outwards.Secure the battery in place by clipping the binder clip over the batter.
- If your LEDs light up – you can continue to make buttons for the Hat (see Step 11).
- If your LEDs do not light up – troubleshoot by looking at each set of copper tape tracks and check the following: Are any tracks crossing? (This will inhibit the flow of electrons down the wire). Are the two pieces of aluminum foil (positive and negative) touching? Is the battery positioned correctly? Are the LEDs positioned correctly?
- To make buttons for the Hat – Remove the battery. Attach a small copper wire in a straight line to a small piece of paper, then attach five velcro dots to the backside of the paper so that the copper tape runs directly underneath the velcro dots. Cut each of the velcro dots out. In the end, you should have five velcro dots, each with a strip of copper tape that runs under them. Be sure to leave some paper beside each velcro dot so you can tape it to your brain hat.
- To make button locations on the hat – Cut a small (2-3mm) piece out of one copper tape track on each circuit that leads to an LED. To do this, simply lift a section of tape off of the paper and make a small cut – the copper tape will adhere after.
- Attach the velcro dot buttons to the small gaps in the hat. Working in pairs – Clip the battery into the battery pack (this will help guide you to know that the button is in the correct place). Place the velcro dot button over the gap in the wire (it is correctly placed when the LED turns on). The other partner will secure the button in place by taping it to the hat. Repeat until each button is properly attached.
- Test out the buttons to make sure each works. You should expect each LED to light up when you press on its velcro dot button.
- Brain Hat Map: Lobe Relay. Test participant knowledge about what the brain lobes are and their functions:
- Call out the name of a brain lobe – participants should touch that lobe to make it light up.
- For more advanced/older participants – test knowledge of lobe functions by either calling out the function and participants touch the appropriate lobe or vice versa.
Section 2: Brain Modeling with Scratch
- Have each participant attach their brain hat to a Makey Makey. To do this: attach an alligator clip to one of the copper tape tracks that extend into each lobe brain. Attach the other end of the alligator clip to one of the buttons on the Makey Makey. Make a playdough grounding bracelet with pipe cleaners (so participants don’t have to hold the alligator clip – see picture at right). Test the Makey Makey to ensure that the Brain Hat controls the computer inputs.
- Allow participants approximately 15 minutes of time with the Brain Hat Connections Scratch program. Provide the Brain Hat Game Example to participants as well.
- Give participants time to design their own game, or modify the Scratch program controlled by their Brain Hat.
- Post-activity: Host an interactive gallery walk, during which participants can visit each others’ computers to see what games or modifications groups have made to the Scratch game.
Extensions & Modifications
How might you adapt the time, space, materials, group sizes, or instructions to make this activity more approachable or more challenging?
In constructing the Brain Map Hat, modify the process as appropriate for the age and ability of participants. A useful extension for advanced participants is to explain parallel circuits but not give step-by-step instructions for constructing the hat (i.e., challenge them to apply knowledge of parallel circuits to the creation of their hat). Steps can be modified for learners needing extra support by working collaboratively and/or providing more pre-prepared materials (particularly for learners struggling with fine motor skills).
In Part 2 – Participants can be provided with a pre-created Scratch game, or challenged to make their own game based on their learnings. Games can incorporate brain lobe names and/or functions, depending on participant age and ability.