Seeding the Future of Neuroscience

2024 Brain Fair

The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis’s long history of studying neurological conditions is sustained by a pipeline that stands up the next generation of neuroscientific practitioners. As one such attractor, The Miami Project’s Office of Education and Outreach attended the Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Expo on Saturday February 3rd, 2024. At the STEAM Expo the Office hosted the Brain Fair, an interactive nervous system exhibit that engages our network of experts to offer a range of simple yet effective activities with a fun neuroscience beat.

Invited colleagues—all of whom either previously trained at The Miami Project or have current professional ties—included Leila M. Allen, Ph.D., of Florida International University, Stephanie Bingham, Ph.D., of Barry University, and Alexis Tapanes-Castillo, Ph.D., of St Thomas University. The Miami Project and these contributing professors brought undergraduate and graduate student volunteers to deliver a variety of demonstrations and interactive activities to the audience of younger, primary school aged attendees of the Expo. In building beaded neuron keychains, students learned about the anatomical organization of nerve cells. While building the neurons, participants were taught about segmental myelin cells that insulate the long nerve axons, represented in the activity as the series of beads (myelin cells) placed on a thread (nerve axon). The professors’ favorite keychain-anatomy analogy was the gaps between beads representing the famous “nodes of Ranvier” that neuroscience students learn contribute to signal conductance down the axon. In another activity, students colored areas of paper hats that represent different brain regions, associating the colors with the different functions that brain regions are responsible.

The Brain Fair seeds the future of neuroscience at multiple levels, with the K-12 STEAM Expo attendees getting an embodied look into neuroscience topics while the faculty and student volunteers cross-pollinate between each other’s neuroscience programs. Indeed, many of the student volunteers who attend the Brain Fair become applicants to The Miami Project’s Steinbrenner Scholars Program, a 10 week immersive, competitive, funded, research-driven summer internship in neurotrauma.

The day before the Brain Fair, The Miami Project hosted the 2024 Brain Bee a neuroscience competition for teens. The Miami Project administrates the South Florida regional arm of this international competition, with winners going on to national and possibly international levels. This year’s South Florida Brain Bee winner was Davud Skenderi, North Ft. Myers High School, with Katherine Jiang placing second and Kayra Balci and Rehan Sha tied for third.

If you’re interested in attending these events, becoming a neuroscientific trainee, or aiding The Miami Project in raising the next generation of scientists dedicated to understanding, managing, and eventually curing paralysis please contact our Office of Education and Outreach for more information: 305-243-7108 or mpinfo@miami.edu