Building Project Big Brain—in Plywood

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on June 17, 2016 · 0 comments

in Campus, Campus Culture, Science

Guest blogger: Julie Pryor, McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT

When MIT moved its campus from a muddle of buildings in Boston’s Copley Square to its new waterfront location in Cambridge 100 years ago, it was an “impressive goodbye,” according to the Boston Daily Globe. MIT celebrated that first river crossing on May 7 with festivities including a community parade. This video profiles the creation of the 200-pound brain that won the parade competition.

Brains@MIT recreated a scientifically accurate brain for the MIT2016 celebration.

The Brains@MIT team recreated a scientifically accurate brain for the MIT2016 celebration.

In January, MIT officials invited the community to participate in this competition, announcing that points would be awarded to teams who crossed the Charles River with the most creativity, spirit, and ingenuity. A team of students, postdocs and staff from MIT’s McGovern Institute, Picower Institute, and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences accepted the challenge. They called themselves Brains@MIT and they began working immediately on their ambitious float.

This three-minute video tells the story of their winning entry: a scientifically accurate 8-foot, 200-pound plywood brain—on wheels. Graduate student Rosa Lafer-Sousa provided her brain—or, rather, data from a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of her brain—and postdoc Ben Bartelle used a CNC router at MIT’s Hobby Shop to carve slices of Rosa’s brain into 60 sheets of plywood.

The team moves the brain toward the parade route.

The team moves the brain toward the parade route.

More than 50 students, postdocs, faculty and staff assembled and painted the brain slices. They highlighted regions of the brain studied by MIT neuroscientists and they designed the hemispheres to separate, revealing the beautiful mind inside.

Ultimately, their hard work paid off. Brains@MIT took home the coveted DaVinci Award for Creativity and Wonder. Their winning brain is now on display in MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences complex.

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