Asee peer logo

Introducing Neuroscience to High School Students through Low-cost Brain Computer Interface Technologies

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Introduction to the Field of Biomedical Engineering - June 25th

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Christine E. King University of California, Irvine

visit author page

Dr. Christine King is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UC Irvine. She received her BS and MS from Manhattan College in Mechanical Engineering and her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from UC Irvine, where she developed brain-computer interface systems for neurorehabilitation. She was a post-doctorate in the Wireless Health Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a research manager in the Center for SMART Health, where she focused on wireless health monitoring for stroke and pediatric asthma. Her current research is on engineering education, specializing in pedagogy strategies to promote learning in design-build-test courses, including senior design, computer programming, and computer-aided-design courses.

visit author page


Beth A. Lopour University of California, Irvine Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Beth Lopour has been an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California, Irvine since 2013. She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University in 2004 and her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley in 2009, where her research focused on representations of sleep and epilepsy in a mean-field model of the human cortex. Dr. Lopour was then a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Neurobiology at UCLA, studying single neuron recordings in the epileptic human brain. Since joining UCI, she has focused on signal processing techniques for both invasive and noninvasive human electrophysiological data, developing novel methods and computational markers to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. These efforts were recently recognized by the American Epilepsy Society when she was the recipient of a Junior Investigator Research Award.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Advancing an interest and literacy in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields in high school students through summer and after school programs has been widely popular since the 1990’s, and these programs are effective at improving retention and persistence after graduation. However, there still remains a lack of designing programs to increase interest and literacy of biomedical engineering (BME) related applications that are scalable at other institutions. This is typically due to the challenges of providing costly resources that are available only in specific laboratory settings and require graduate level expertise to operate. To provide a low-cost and scalable approach to introduce BME applications to high school students, the authors developed a BME high school summer program that was piloted in the summer of 2019. Aimed at introducing students to the BME field, the program focused on introducing neuroscience and neuroengineering principles using low-cost and open source materials.

The California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) program “BioEngineering Your Brain: Controlling the World with Your Brainwaves” introduced basic neuroscience and bioengineering concepts to 24 high school students through lecture based material, in class assignments and activities, and hands-on laboratory projects. Through the use of low-cost and open source electroencephalography (EEG) devices (OpenBCI, Brooklyn, NY), students utilized a brain-computer interface (BCI) system to learn how to analyze brain data, characterize underlying physiological behaviors, and use algorithms to interface with a computer screen. The BCI system utilized steady state visual evoked potentials (SSVEP) of EEG to control a character in a maze on a computer screen. The cost of the system was < $300, and all materials are reusable for future program offerings. In addition, the signal processing techniques introduced students to Matlab Software (MathWorks, Natick, MA), which they learned how to use via the free Octave Online web user interface. Students were asked to develop a hypothesis, methods protocol, and validation protocol to determine how to optimize the BCI system in the laboratory. To provide instructional guidance, supplemental lectures and in class activities on brain physiology, programming and signal processing principles, brain recording modalities, as well as BCI development and applications were provided throughout the program. To determine whether the program increased interest and confidence in pursuing BME as an undergraduate degree, an exit survey was provided to all students who attended the program.

The exit survey results showed that the program improved students’ perceptions of BME and their interest in entering BME as an undergraduate major. In particular, 83.33% of the students agreed or strongly agreed that the experience increased their interest in studying BME, and 83.33% of the students agreed or strongly agreed that it increased their interest in the field of neuroscience. Furthermore, 87.5% of the students reported that the program increased their interest in pursuing scientific research as a career, and 91.67% of the students reported that it increased their interest in obtaining a graduate degree.

With advancements in hardware and open source software, the authors were able to develop a novel low-cost approach for introducing neuroscience, BME, and BCIs to high school students. Future work will expand the program to other BCI applications and developing online lecture modules that complement the laboratory portion of the program. In addition, the authors plan to introduce the program to other summer programs to assess its scalability and efficacy at improving interest and literacy of BME and neuroengineering principles to high school students. The authors will also introduce the program into our current undergraduate curriculum as part of a project that will be conducted alongside our current EEG experimental laboratory during the next year, as it will reinforce principles learned during the existing course content and provide a BME application of the laboratory.

King, C. E., & Lopour, B. A. (2020, June), Introducing Neuroscience to High School Students through Low-cost Brain Computer Interface Technologies Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34877

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015