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Science Centre: Brain – The Inside Story

Amelie ZhouMichelle Zhou
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On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, Voice K went to the media opening of the Ontario Science Center’s newest exhibit, “Brain – The Inside Story.”  The experience was so educational, fun, and even weird!The Exhibition:
by Dea Yu (age 9), Michelle Zhou (age 9) and Jeffrey Li (age 9)

Dea and Angie trying interactive components

Dea and Angie trying interactive components

The first thing we saw when we walked into the doors of the Brain exhibition was a large amount of tangled wires covering the ceiling. At first I felt very confused, but then I read a sign and suddenly I understood. This is what it looks like in a brain.

As I moved on, I learned more and more fascinating facts. Did you know that if you have shorter memory it is because you don’t get enough sleep? Also, did you know that there are about 100 billion neurons present in the human brain? That’s about 15 times the total human population on earth!

There were activities and games at every turn. There was a stacking game, a tracing game, a language game, a map route game, and lots more!

The tracing game had you trace a shape while looking at your actions in a mirror, so you can only see what you are doing through the mirror. There was a Beginner Shape, which was a triangle. The Advanced Shape was a star. Warning: this activity is easier said than done, but it gets easier over time. It was an example of How-to Memory.

The stacking game is a simplified version of the Towers of Hanoi, where two people can compete against each other. There was also a screen that showed you what happens in your brain when you do things. For example, it showed what happens in your brain when you steal a cookie from mom,  when you’re happy, or when you’re hungry.

There were plenty of strange facts as well. One of the games taught you that things can be easier to memorize when they are in groups that make sense. Plus, there were facts about memory. There was one guy who memorized 2254 digits of π!

Also, we learned that descriptive words can play tricks on your mind. There was also one activity that told you to read two columns that had colored words in them. Column A had words like black, red, and white printed in the color of the words. Column B had the same words, but printed in different colors. Then you had to use the clock above to time someone not to read the words, but to say the color they are printed in. You will notice that Column B takes longer.

We interviewed two guests at the exhibition, Alicia Hilderley and Andrew Barr.

Alicia is a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto. She works part-time for the Holland-Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, one of the organizers for the event.  She gets to work with lots of kids and play interactive games with them.

Alicia claims to like everything about the exhibit, but feels that having more games, which is already her favorite part, would make the place even more attractive. Her number-one activity is “Stacking Cubes.” Though Alicia is an expert on brains, she still learned lots of new and interesting things at the exhibition. “It’s very inspiring,” Alicia concluded.

Andrew is also learning about the brain at school – its function, makeup, and evolution. He said that his experience at the science center would help him indefinitely during his studies. Andrew found the exhibit very fun and exciting because it was his first time at the facility in many years and he was able to gain a lot of knowledge from the trip. Above all, Andrew liked the languages activity, as he felt that it revealed the substantial differences between some of the languages that are spoken around the world.

Interview with Dr. Elaine Bidiss
by Amelie Zhou (age 9)

Interview with dr.Bidiss

Interview with Dr.Bidiss

Elaine Bidiss is a scientist at the Bloorview Research Institute and a Professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering.

She was developing a new way to let kids have fun while waiting in the waiting room of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. She didn’t want kids to be bored, but, in an even worse scenario, anxious. Anxiety could result in resistance to treatment, worry, and fighting to not go back to the rehab center. Boredom is just a minor problem, but anxiety proves to be a major problem. They didn’t want kids to have a bad memory of the place.

The problem was, they couldn’t use toys that involved touching surfaces that everyone touches, because contagious viruses could spread very easily just at a touch. That meant iPads, computers, dolls, hand-activated toys were out of the question. What about bubble machines? That was a good question. It only involved looking at something. However, it’s still no good ─ that interested parents for about 5 minutes, and kids for about 5 seconds. The hospital tried so many things, and after years of experimenting, they came up with a great toy that involved the art of waiting. There was a colourful carpet on the floor and by standing on the squares, floor sensors under the carpet send messages to a big screen. The longer you stand there, the prettier the pictures and sounds will become. Now, parents and kids alike can enjoy growing a garden together!

We also wanted to know why she chose to study the brain. She thought that the brain was a sort of magical thing, and she thought that it was important to know how your brain works, how you learn, how you think.

“We want to make sure that kids with disabilities can do things all kids like to do and have fun doing it,  so we design technology that makes it easier for kids to do those sorts of things,” Dr. Bidiss said. We asked a few questions on the brain itself, and learned that playing piano is good for the brain. If you want to improve someone’s brain, it takes practice and willingness. When we asked her why she thinks the brain is located in our heads, she laughed and said she thinks it makes it harder to be damaged, compared to being located in the foot or hand.

Meet the writers

Amelie Zhou

Amelie Zhou

Hi, my name is Amelie. I am 10 years old and I am in grade four. I go to Silver Stream Public School (SSPS). My favorite color is purple and my favourite animal is the horse. My favorite series of books is “Redwall” by Brian Jacques. There is a lot of adventure inside. I also like the riddles in it. I like skiing and swimming. I have two pets. They are both fish. I might get two birds later. I have an identical twin named Michelle. She is one minute younger than me. Something special about me is that I treat some non-living things like they’re living, especially my toys. I still hang on to them, even if they’re very old.

Michelle Zhou

Michelle Zhou

Hello. My name is Michelle. I am currently in grade four. I go to Silver Stream Public School. I enjoy reading comics and writing short stories from the top of my brain. I have an identical twin sister named Amelie. I like doodling, skiing, making myself dizzy, and doing handstands under the water. I like experimenting with computers, but I get into trouble. The only successful pets I have now are two nine-year-old fish without names. If you were to put me into one of the categories, Girl or Tomboy, I have one half here, and one half there. I will do almost ANYTHING possible to continue sleeping in most cases. That is all you need to know about me.

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