Customer Highlight: Hale Charter Academy
Kate Dehbashi teaches 8th grade computer science and robotics classes at Hale Charter Academy in Woodland Hills, one of the many schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Hale started an engineering design, information and communication technologies CTE pathways program about 5 years ago, and their school has been working with different STEM products since then.
This past Fall semester of 2021, Dehbashi began working with NeuroMaker. Very quickly, it made an impression on her and her students. ”It was one of the best products I’ve ever used,” she said. “My students loved it. I had them write some testimonials yesterday and then they absolutely loved it. It was a great experience.”
The students were excited by the NeuroMaker BCI headset where they could observe and read their brainwaves and connect the data to electrical circuits or even the NeuroMaker robotics hand.
The students had fun building the robotics hand, and doing the activities. “I introduced both products in the beginning but told the students, `We’re going to work with the hand, finish the projects, and then we are going to start the head-set’. [There] was not a day that they didn’t ask me, ‘When are we going to start with the headset? When are we going to start?’”
Like many educators, Dehbashi has been searching for engaging products that introduce different subjects like computer science, electronics, math, and science. She was also looking for something cutting-edge, which is what intrigued her about NeuroMaker.
“That’s what I really loved about the NeuroMaker neuroscience curriculum and BCI. One of the classes I teach, the title of the class is medical detectives, that has a lot to do with biology and neuroscience and all that…..so I was looking for a product that I can use in that class, and I think NeuroMaker was the perfect match.”
Dehbashi wants to also add BCI and neuroscience to their electronic and programming projects in the near future. She is planning on delving into the neuroscience curriculum this summer and eventually embedding it into her Fall program. “The curriculum is definitely more than enough. It’s very complete. It has everything in it. I didn’t get a chance to go through every single lesson and project, but the ones that I studied and did in my class were perfect. They had links to videos. That helped a lot. The articles, links to different articles that we read, that was really helpful. And it’s all hands on. That’s what I love about it. It’s hands on. Students are able to see the results of their work in the project. So it’s not just theory. They read about it, they’ve learned the scientific facts, and then they do the project and then they see the results of what they learn.”
Dedicated to sharing her findings with her esteemed colleagues, Dehbashi even had the Career Technical Education (CTE) advisor come and check-out how the students were using NeuroMaker in the classroom. Based on the engagement rate alone, Dehbashi was motivated to share this success with the rest of her district, “I think this is a great product. I want to introduce it to other teachers in my pathway, even the biotechnology pathway, because it all connects.”
Passionate about students needing to learn transferable skills like engineering, coding and programming, Dehbashi is also adamant about students needing to be introduced to artificial intelligence – especially the ethics and impact, no matter what career path a student takes.
“I always tell my students in the very near future, if you don’t know how to code, it’s like you don’t know how to read. They definitely need to know about coding, because coding is everywhere. Any industry you look at, agriculture, fashion, retail, anything that you think about has some kind of coding in it. Artificial intelligence is also becoming part of our lives. From digital assistants, like Alexa, Siri that we use every day [to] the restaurant robots that bring food to you.”
When asked what they liked the most about NeuroMaker, the students’ responses were interesting:
I liked how you were able to control the robotic hand and how we are able to somewhat interact with the hand using the headset.
I like watching the attention go up and down and then getting frustrated when I couldn’t change it, but then it all worked out in the end.
I like trying to do different things, observing my psychological level when doing it. I learned how it could read my brain waves. I like moving the hand only with my brain waves.
I like the fact that we could control different stuff with our brain wave, like LED lights and several motors. I like being able to control things using my mind.
Making STEM more inclusive and interesting for all students is a challenge that many school districts face. Dehbashi noticed that the 10% of her class who identify as female were more excited about the neuroscience activities than other STEM activities. “We started with one girl in the class, and now we are up to 10 or 12 girls in the class,” Dehbashi noted. “I had sixth and seventh grade girls coming to my class asking to see the robotics hand, because the other girls talked to them about it.”
Many educators are motivated to change the mindset that STEM jobs and topics can be engaging and fun. Dehbashi continues, “It doesn’t have to be dry, building and coding… They had a lot of fun with NeuroMaker.”
Another reason that the NeuroMaker program has been successful at Hale is the support. Dehbashi continues, “The support is great. I loved it. Anytime I sent an email, I got a response within five minutes. The support was awesome. I never worked with a company that had so much support for teachers, and I told that to my CT grant advisor as well. Besides loving the products and the curriculum, I love the support they offer. It’s just anything I needed, they were there for me.”