2012 BFY Abstract Detail Page
Previous Page |
New Search |
||Electrical Circuits for Bioinspired Applications
||A new course emphasizing topics at the intersection of biology and physics, titled "Bioengineering and Bioinspired Design," was recently launched at Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA). The course features a 6-week long, open-ended research project, chosen by the student group, in consultation with the instructor.
One such project seeks to develop means of controlling insect locomotion via extracellular neural stimulation--i.e., making cyborg insects. The electrophysiological response can also be measured. This project serves as a natural conduit for learning about various types of standard electronic elements (logic gates, D/A converters, FET switches, op-amp-based summer, buffer, active filters); practical construction techniques (component selection, PCB layout and fabrication, soldering); as well as testing and debugging. Students also learn to apply RC circuit concepts (transient and step response) to model the electrical properties of neurons in response to extracellular voltage- and/or current-controlled stimuli. They must also consider how microelectrode geometry and implantation site selection can be critical for the efficacy of the stimulus.
Another project sought to develop a discrete-component-based circuit which mimics the shark's exquisitely sensitive electrosensory system. Concepts and construction techniques similar to those described above are utilized.
An underlying theme for these bioinspired projects is that electronic instrumentation is a powerful, widely applicable skill. Instructor assessment and course evaluations indicate that these interdisciplinary projects facilitate a meaningful learning experience and that students are inherently enthusiastic about them (it's their brainchild after all!).
Washington and Lee University, Department of Physics-Engineering
204 West Washington St
Howe Hall 221