8 March 2014: Spikerbox Building Workshop

The first Spikerbox Building Workshop in collaboration with BackyardBrains (http://www.backyardbrains.com) was held in the UK on the 8th of May 2014, at the Institute of Neuroscience (IoN), Newcastle University. The IoN sponsored 11 students and members of staff and the School of Computing Science sponsored 3 students to attend the workshop.

I received a £500 grant from the Alumni Association Student Initiative Fund to buy equipment and the electronics workshop in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering donated a bunch of wire cutters and strippers to get us going. The new soldering irons proved a bit problematic here and there because something, maybe some protective layer on the soldering sponges, caused the tips not to stick to the solder. And here I thought things will run perfectly with brand new equipment!! Lesson learnt and for future workshops I’ll have something to clean off those tips no matter what.

With it being the first workshop I was not to sure what to expect. My fears were that I might not know enough considering that I expected my first workshop to be for the public and not for scientists! It turned out, however, that there was a good mix of skills and knowledge with regards to neuroscience, soldering, electronics and the use of Arduinos. Everyone attending elected to build the SpikerShield, which made it a bit easier but with the different soldering skill levels I still had to be all over the place. The advantage of a mixed group was that I could co-opt some attendees to help out, although, I didn’t need to do a lot of “co-opting” as they just started helping out anyway!

I thought the workshop went well. We even managed to try out my new human-to-human interface. I learnt a lot that I’ll try to implement in the next workshop and from the feedback I received I think the participants enjoyed it too.