We are pleased to announce that our manuscript formally describing the SpikerBox development, four experiments, and some classroom deployments, was released yesterday in PLoS ONE. Notably, this journal does not charge to view articles, so people anywhere around the world can download, read, use, and critique the work free of charge. How is this possible? The publication fees are supported by the scientific community. In our case, we subsidized the publication through a Kickstarter Project with the generous help of 53 backers. We champion open science hardware and public access to science, so it was especially rewarding for us to to publish, after peer review, this crowd-sourced, open-access, open-source hardware manuscript. Read away fellow colleagues!
Marzullo TC, Gage GJ (2012) The SpikerBox: A Low Cost, Open-Source BioAmplifier for Increasing Public Participation in Neuroscience Inquiry. PLoS ONE 7(3): e30837. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030837
If you’ve followed us over the past couple years, you’ll know we have been slowly working on a MicroManipulator to allow you to do more precise neural recordings instead of just “blindly” inserting electrodes in a cockroach leg, cricket, or earthworm. We’ve had prototypes of manipulators for about as long as we’ve been in existence, but the problem was that they took so dang long to build (about a week) and would break easily.
So, we’ve never worked beyond the working prototype stage of the manipulator as it was just too hard to produce reliably. Until today. Those “in the know” are familiar with a new technology that is taking over the hacker/Maker scene: The MakerBot! It’s a consumer grade 3D printer that allows you to design objects in programs in SketchupUp, Rhino, or AutoDesk 123 and print them on your tabletop device. Few technologies have we witnessed over the past few years that are as exciting as this one. With the MakerBot, we were able to reduce the number of pieces (not counting screws) from 21 to 5, and assembly time from a week to half a day and decreasing. Here’s what it looks like, with a video.
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Compare it to one of our earlier prototypes from ~two years ago.
We shipped this first production unit to our friends Mohsen Omrani and Ethan Hemming at Queen’s University at Kinston, Ontario, who are testing it in their undergraduate neuroscience lab course. We have 1-2 more design tweaks to implement, and then we plan to begin offering it for sale in 2-4 weeks, first in preassembed form and eventually in kit form (both will be priced similarly to the SpikerBox). Stay tuned! And yes, as with our all inventions, this is open-source. We will post all our .stl files and schematics so you can print it on your own 3D printer if you like.
We want to thank our new colleague Tiburcio De La Carcova for helping tremendously with the design and production over the last intense two weeks as we raced to complete the unit in time for Mohsen. Tiburcio is a lifelong hardware freak and co-founder of videogame company Atakama Labs in Santiago, Chile.
Though we haven’t formally announced it yet, we are currently spending some time back-and-forth between Michigan and Chile on a “StartUp Chile” fellowship to bring neuroscience to the schools and students of South America. Notably, this manipulator was “Hecho en Chile” in a brand new hackerspace Tiburcio is building to encourage invention in Santiago. ¡Viva la NeuroRevolucion! Tú vas a ver más español en nuestro sitio web en breve……