I wanted something to illustrate the idea that when our senses encounter a stimulus, they send an electrical message to the brain for it to interpret. So, I found a clip art image of the brain (note: I do not have copyright for this image… this was just for use in my class on one day) that showed which parts of the brain interpret different signals.
For vision, I used the power component, light sensor, wire, and bar graph light from littleBits Electronics Base Kit. When the light was shining on the sensor, the light was on in the brain. If we covered up the “eye” then the brain went dark.
For hearing, for one-on-one use, what I wanted to do was use the littleBits Electronics Sound Trigger, so that when there was a noise, a light would turn on, but when there wasn’t, it would turn off. But, even at home in a quiet room, it didn’t turn out great… the light would come on, but then it would stay on for a little while, even if the noise stopped, so you didn’t get quite the instant on-off response I would have wanted. I also realized that this device would never work in my classroom setting, where we might have 20 kids and 15 adults… it’s never quiet enough to NOT trigger a sound sensor. So, I had to compromise and just use a power button as the sensor (hooked to a wire and the buzzer), and say… “imagine you hear a loud noise – press the button – what happens in your brain?” And the buzzer in the brain went buzz…
I only have so many littleBits (the biggest problem with littleBits is they’re too darned expensive!) so the touch sensor was built with Snap Circuits. I just had a switch next to a picture of a hand, and when you touched the hand, a light came on in the brain like it was saying “someone’s touching me!” And when you stopped touching it, the light went off.
Kids of all ages (3-8) had fun playing with this. Even the young ones got the idea that when something happened over here, there was a response over there. I THINK they got that it represented how their senses and their brains work.
I think this could be a good base for a science fair project as well.
If you’re not familiar with these electronic kits: Here’s my review of littleBits vs. Snap Circuits.