Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Using brain waves to control robotic arms, value of diverse podcast subscriptions

My son, Alexander, and I are commuting now in the mornings down to Oklahoma City so he can attend Classen SAS. The drive is about 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic, and last week we discussed that we should listen to a book on tape or some podcasts on our commutes. This morning we listened to the May 2008 episode of Science Friday, “Monkey’s Thoughts Move Robot Arm.” This isn’t “new” news, it’s over a year old, but we hadn’t heard about this or seen the accompanying video. Unfortunately embed code is not provided, but the following January 2007 BBC video (“Brain control-Monkey”) is available on YouTube and gives more background on the type of experiments and breakthroughs featured in these news programs.

According to the May 2008 New York Times article, “Monkeys Think, Moving Artificial Arm as Own:”

Two monkeys with tiny sensors in their brains have learned to control a mechanical arm with just their thoughts, using it to reach for and grab food and even to adjust for the size and stickiness of morsels when necessary, scientists reported on Wednesday.

The report, released online by the journal Nature, is the most striking demonstration to date of brain-machine interface technology. Scientists expect that technology will eventually allow people with spinal cord injuries and other paralyzing conditions to gain more control over their lives.

The findings suggest that brain-controlled prosthetics, while not practical, are at least technically within reach.

Isn’t this AMAZING? Hearing about this work makes me wish we had opportunities to learn about lego robotics, pico crickets, Scratch, and other programming / robotics related technologies in our schools and communities. We do have three organizations focused on high school robotics competitions here in Oklahoma, but I’m not aware of robotics learning opportunities for elementary or middle school aged students. Even our local Oklahoma City lego store staff were not aware of any opportunities to learn about lego robotics here. What’s up with that?!

Our learning moments about neuroscience and robotics this morning in the car on the way to school underlines the benefit of subscribing to a diverse array of compelling podcasts, so interesting content is always just a click away on an iPhone or iPod Touch when you want it! It also demonstrates how valuable it can be to have a personal, mobile, media player! I still keep all my feeds cross-loaded in PodNova as well as my local iTunes client for backup purposes. If you’re interested, my podcast subscription OMPL file is available. It doesn’t appear that the feeds are updating within Podnova, however, so I’m not sure what’s going on with that. I wish iTunes made it easier to share podcasts to which a person is subscribed and likes, similar to the way NetFlix or GoodReads does.

Do you know of a website besides PodNova which is setup to easily facilitate the sharing of favorite podcast subscriptions? I’d want something which either has ZERO advertising or a minimal amount. There are plenty of podcasting directories out there, but I’m looking for something like the NetFlix Friends portal area.

Netflix Friends

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4 responses to “Using brain waves to control robotic arms, value of diverse podcast subscriptions”

  1. Josh Avatar

    We do have a program in Oklahoma metro area called Technology Engineering. I am a teacher in Yukon in Technology Engineering for the middle school. We do projects with Lego NXT, Scratch, bridge design, car design, and electronics to name a few. I have been working to move my curriculum online at if you are interested in looking at some of the resources I have up.

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    That is outstanding, Josh. I was just hearing today about some of the new technology initiatives in Yukon. Is there a website for “Technology Engineering” in Oklahoma” or a learning community for teachers of tech engineering yet? If not you should consider starting one. Thanks for sharing the link to your website as well. I registered and will check out the content there in greater depth.

    My initial suggestion to you, however, is that you make your content publicly accessible without requiring a login. I’d be interested in know your rationale for requiring registration? “Sharing by default” is a much more powerful strategy for seeking to promote learning, collaboration, and transformative educational change.

  3. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Josh: I would also recommend you provide more info on your website on an “about” page about who created the page and some basic bio info. Currently there doesn’t seem to be that type of explanatory “about us” info on the site.

  4. Josh Avatar

    The website for Oklahoma Technology Engineering is We have about 250 programs in schools across Oklahoma. In the high school setting it is called TechConnect. We have a student organization called Technology Student Association that provides students leadership opportunities and a chance to compete with the projects they made with other students across the state.

    On my website I would like to add the ability to track student progress and test scores. I would also like to add a way for teachers to message their students and for students to collaborate on certain activities. I can also let members know of important updates to the site. I am also looking into having a fee based membership. Those are some of the reasons I have the membership.

    Thanks for the recommendations on the website. I am trying to add things as fast as possible.