What does the brain look like? As engineers, how can we look at neural networks without invasive surgery? In this activity, students design and build neuron models based on observations made while viewing neurons through a microscope. The models are used to explain how each structure of the neuron contributes to the overall function. Students share their models with younger students and explain what a neuron is, its function, and how engineers use their understanding of the neuron to make devices to activate neurons.
In this lesson on the brain's neural networks, students investigate the structure and function of the neuron. They discover ways in which engineers apply this knowledge to the development of devices that can activate neurons. After a review of the nervous system specifically its organs, tissue, and specialized cells, called neurons students learn about the parts of the neuron. They explore the cell body, dendrites, axon and axon terminal, and learn how these structures enable neurons to send messages. They learn about the connections between engineering and other fields of study, and the importance of research, as they complete the lesson tasks.