A3D3 Lab Tour for Washington Middle School

By: Leo Scholl

April 15, 2024

Volunteers from A3D3 Institute labs showing off the demos they presented. From left, Jingyuan Li, Emily Sperry, Leo Scholl, Matt Foresi, Shih-Chieh Hsu, Yang Zheng, and Aryana Bhattacharyyaraders

Students from Washington Middle School’s 6th grade got a hands-on demo of A3D3’s exciting research last week as part of a STEM tour of UW labs. The program included a tour of three A3D3 labs, including demos of fast machine learning, neuroscience, and particle physics. Afterwards, the 80 students also had an opportunity to visit the center for Integration of Modern Optoelectronic Materials on Demand (IMOD), the Clean Energy Institute (CEI) and the UW Molecular Engineering Materials Center (MEM-C).

“It was great to see the middle schoolers exploring beyond what the demos were showing. [I saw students] competing with each other to see who could get the largest signals [during the EMG demo].”

-Emily Sperry, 3rd year student in Amy Orsborn’s lab

Students learning about neuroscience research at UW

The tour was coordinated by graduate student Jingyuan Li of the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at UW. Assisted by undergraduate student Aryana Bhattacharyya, they gave a demo fast ML using pokemon cards. Students held the cards under a webcam which fed a downsampled image into an FPGA-based neural network set up by students in Scott Hauck’s lab. There, the images were classified in real time as one of 10 pre-trained pokemon. The middle school students took turns to test the model’s speed and accuracy, and learned about features of the images which could trick the algorithm into guessing pokemon.

A student seeing their forearm muscle activity amplified and recorded on a computer

Students also learned how our brains send electrical impulses to our muscles to coordinate movement, and had a chance to record electrical activity from their biceps muscles using a small electromyograph (EMG) amplifier. Researchers from Amy Orsborn’s neuroscience lab demonstrated how they use real-time signals from brain-computer interfaces like EMG to control the position of a computer cursor. The researchers also brought 3D-printed models of their non-human primates, which are used to validate and practice the surgical procedures required to study signals from the brain. The middle school students explored the different layers of the models, including skin, bone, and brain. They learned about the differences between muscle-based and brain-based electrical signals, and were very curious about the behavior and nature of the monkeys.

Students examine a 3D model of a detector module for the PIONEER experiment

Together, the researchers introduced the middle school students to some fundamentals of ML, physics, and neuroscience in a fun and engaging way. The event follows the success of last quarter’s outreach event for high school students also hosted at UW.