Backyard Brains tries to get Kickstarted.

January 5, 2011

Remember the $100 Spike folks? Who went on to launch a startup company called Backyard Brains to create cheap electrophysiology devices for the kid-education market?
They have launched a KickStarter drive to raise some cash for the next development cycle. They are looking to reach $5,000 and you have until Jan 9 to participate if you are so inclined. Here’s the overview:

Our goal is to develop a production version of the ‘SpikerBox’, an inexpensive, easy to use, bioamplifier for neuroscience experiments. It will be used by students in junior highs, high schools, and undergrad universities. We intend to make the teaching tools user-friendly enough that students of all ages can understand how to experiment with the nervous system of insects.

and here’s what they plan to use the KickStarter dough to accomplish:

We currently make the enclosures for our boxes by hand. While wood looks esthetically pleasing, it takes a lot of time and labor to manufacture. Our goal is to make our SpikerBoxes as cheap as possible. We are raising money to build a CNC acrylic or plastic based enclosure. Our goal in the enclosure is to make it low cost, easy to get access to the insides (we want kids to open it!) and ideally be transparent so that the electronics become a part of the experience.
Your investment will be spent to design and build several acrylic-based prototypes. This will allow us to bring these prototypes into high school classrooms and get direct feedback from the students and their teachers. The winning prototype will become our new enclosure. All because of you. Let the NeuroRevolution begin!

If you’ve never heard of KickStarter before, the FAQ will give you an idea of what it is all about. In essence you pledge a donation. If the pledges total the $5,000 threshold by the deadline, you are charged for your pledge but if it fails to reach enough pledges you are not charged (you have to use Amazon Flexible Payments Services, which permits this).
As far as I can tell there is no upside for the donor beyond being an angel. No tax deduction unless the entity to which you are eventually donating is a qualifying entity. No intellectual property or other interest in the company accrues to you, this is not an investment. So it may not appeal to everyone…
You can look through some of my prior posts, linked at the start, for why I like these guys and their effort so much. They are doing some creative stuff to try to get kids interested in neuroscience. They’ve been legging it out, doing some kids’ camps and generally putting on a traveling demo show during the year and, of course, continue to entertain at the SfN annual meeting. This past year’s bit of SfN Theme H fun was hooking their model (the cockroach leg) up to the head of a turntable and recording LP-induced spike activity. They also were trying to demo up a cheap way to wire up a toy remote control to the antenna sockets of a roach so as to be able to control the direction of movement. Fun stuff if they can get it to work and I assume all of this will eventually be put into a set of lab kits.

2 Responses to “Backyard Brains tries to get Kickstarted.”

  1. Greg Says:

    Thanks for the plug during our final push this weekend. This is our second experiment at crowd sourcing, and very exciting. You’ve described kickstarter perfectly. No upside for the donors, save for the joy in seeing projects move ahead. There are a few gifts we provide to our backers… SpikerBoxes, DIY Kits, stickers, etc. But mostly we think people support the idea of DIY science. Again, thanks for your support over the years and wish us luck!


  2. DrugMonkey Says:

    I just noticed I forgot to put in a link to your Kickstarter page, d’oh! Fixed now. Good luck with making it over the line.


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