Date March 18, 2023
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Photos: Brown Brain Fair makes brain science fun for all

As part of Brain Week Rhode Island, local families joined Brown University researchers and students for a full day of learning and fun.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — For Providence resident Luisa Rodriguez, planning a family outing for the weekend 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 experiments and learning through play at the 2023 Brown Brain Fair.

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

Rodriguez participated in the weekend event in order to inspire and entertain her 6-year-old daughter, Gabriela Sanchez, who has a natural curiosity for science and medicine.

"Ever since she was little, she has always had an interest in the human body or anything with science," said Rodriguez. "Events like this can help inspire her to take those interests further by encouraging her to ask questions, to be inquisitive and excite her to want to know more about how things work."

The family-focused interactive demonstrations and hands-on exhibits ranged in focus from psychology to brain anatomy. Dozens of tables, kiosks and booths had been set up in the Hazeltine Lobby. Brown researchers and students ranging from undergrad to post-grad were stationed around the room engaging visitors, answering questions, sharing brain facts and debunking common brain myths.

Kids and adults were invited to try virtual reality goggles, handle a preserved human brain and have their brain waves measured. At one of the stations, run by scientists involved with BrainGate research program, visitors could control a state-of-the-art robotic arm to learn how brain-computer interface technology enables a person to control an external device using their brain signals. Other activity stations featured microscopes offering glimpses of brain microtissues, and computer monitors showed images of brain signals and three-dimensional whole-brain diagrams.

Last held in 2019, the Brown Brain Fair is organized and managed by the Brown Brain Bee student group, 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 brainy bunch that attended the fair. She came to the 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 the sciences.

"We don't know what they're going to be yet, and exposure can start to move things in a direction," said Briggs. "I'm hoping they will see something, share something, look at something, and then that'll be a catalyst for whatever they're going to do in their lives."