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The International Neuroscience Network Foundation
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INNF Sponsors Educational Activities in US and Brazil

Washington DC, June, 2008 – As part of the INNF educational mission, the Global Science & Technology (S&T) Development Grant was established to sponsor and support international educational programs for grades K-12. The program was designed for implementation in two phases. The first phase involves increasing exposure of underserved students to robotics and science activities, while the second phase establishes an international dimension to the program, linking the schools to each other through computer technology to share cultural experiences and to establish a collaborative academic relationship. The first recipients of the Global Science & Technology (S&T) Development grants are the Robotics Program at the SEED School of Washington, DC and the Alfredo J. Monteverde School of Natal, Brazil. These funds are intended to establish and support robotics education, and to sponsor student access to activities and events which expand their knowledge of robotics and of fields of study involving brain science and health. Supported activities include:

• Presentation to the SEED student body by Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, world renowned expert in brain-machine interfaces and neuroengineering. Dr. Nicolelis spoke to the students about his research using robots and technology aimed at developing therapies to help paralyzed patients regain control of body movement, followed by an informal question and answer session with the students.

• A special event, “Making a Difference through Science,” was organized in February, 2008 to provide students with a broader view of science and health career options. Seven minority professionals in fields ranging from pediatric physician/epidemiologist to bacteriology/anthrax scientist to psychiatrist/neuroscientist visited SEED school as mentors to lead small group discussions of their respective fields of study. More than 100 students in grades 7-8 participated in these sessions.

From left: Dr. Kafui Dzirasa, Dr. Marcus Jones, Mr. David Roberts, Dr. Alan Rudolph, Mr. William Lumpkin, Dr. Maya Matheny, Dr. Chiatogu Onyewu, Dr. Porcia Bradford, and Mr. Mawuli Dzirasa.  Speakers met with small groups of SEED students to discuss their educational and professional experiences. Dr. Chiatogu Onyewu discusses her work in genetic medicine at the Children’s National Medical Center with SEED students.

• INNF led and sponsored the SEED Robotics Club field trip to the FIRST Robotics Competition NASA/VCU Regional at Virginia Commonwealth University in March, 2008. Twenty Robotics Club students experienced the excitement of the FIRST robotics competition, with guided tours of the VCU Siegel arena and of the “pit” area where students from high schools all along the East Coast prepared their robots to perform and compete. While at VCU, the students also visited the laboratory of entomologist Dr. Karen Kester. Dr. Kester explained her research using insects to detect harmful agents in the environment and encouraged the students to observe and touch some of her insect specimens.

Box office view of VCU’s Siegel Arena, where high school student from all over the US participated in the NASA/FIRST Robotics competition. Teams test and make adjustments to the robots prior to the competition.
SEED students joined the excitement on the floor of the arena with the competing teams, talking with team members and learning about the robots. Students listen to Dr. Karen Kester explaining her research using insects to detect harmful agents in the environment. Afterward, they will examine the insects more closely using the lab’s microscopes.

• Ten high school students from SEED visited the laboratories of Dr. Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University in early April, 2008. Students spent time in the laboratory observing hands-on demonstrations by graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day activities taking place in a research environment. Students also met with undergraduate admissions staff, visited the Lemur Center, the Duke Smart House, and walked inside the famed Cameron Indoor Stadium. The highlight of the visit was an informal chat with university President Richard Brodhead in his office and his presentation of a Duke University banner as a gift to the SEED School.

• A partnership and cultural exchange program has been established between the students of the SEED School Robotics Program and those enrolled in the Robotics Class at Alfredo J. Monteverde School in Natal, Brazil. In this next phase, the students of these partner schools will use internet technology to introduce themselves to one another and share their respective life experiences. They will be encouraged to share information about their cultures, history, school experiences as well as share photographs of themselves and their environment. Later this year, the two groups of students will work together in a fully collaborative endeavor to design and build robotic projects, solve project problems, and share successes.

The INNF plans to expand the Global Science & Technology (S&T) Development Grant and Initiative in the upcoming year, initially seeking to identify new schools located in the home countries of INNF Neuroscience Network members.
© 2007 International Neuroscience Network Foundation