A guide of how to transfer expertise about biosignal engineering, signal processing and brain-computer interfaces to your students in 1 semester
Abdelkader Nasreddine Belkacem, (PhD from Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer and Network Engineering at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) who recently purchased a Unicorn Education Kit to teach brain-computer interface and EEG in his courses. In this interview, we’ll present how he does it, what benefits he creates for his students and himself and why all universities with a focus on brain-computer interfaces, signal processing and neurotechnology should do it too.
I have been working on brain computer interface (BCI) field in Japan for several years and it was always a dream for me to bring this technology and transfer my BCI expertise to the Arab world (North Africa and Middle East).
Teaching multidisciplinary fields such as BCI for undergraduate students was always a challenge, especially for students who do not have any BCI background, until g.tec medical engineering provided a Unicorn Education Kit.
The Education Kit has eight EEG headsets with a flexible software environment, which makes teaching the practical aspects of BCI to undergraduate students possible. I divide my students into eight groups and ask each group to deliver a BCI project within one semester.
For what studies and courses do you use Unicorn Hybrid Black?
I have started teaching a BCI course at UAEU for Selected Topics in Computer Engineering where my students should learn more about human interfacing, signal processing, machine learning, and control algorithms. I teach undergraduate students how to build a BCI from scratch using Unicorn Hybrid Black.
For instance, a group of three UAEU undergraduate students at College of Information Technology have controlled a drone using their brainwaves. They used wireless Unicorn Hybrid Black EEG headset to stream and record EEG signals to extract P300 characteristic and translate it to commands to control drone movements in real-time.
By the end of the project, they have learned:
how to record brainwaves,
how to use P300 Speller,
how to send commands from Unicorn to drone using socket,
how to connect everything using Python to fly a Parrot Bebop 2.
Why did you join the BR41N.IO Hackathon 2019 in Bari with your students? And how did you and your students benefit from the event?
It was the first time for our IT undergraduate students to participate in such big international conference to join a BCI hackathon. I pushed and trained them in the summer to participate in BR41N.IO Hackathon for many reasons:
BCI Hackathon is a great setting for students to learn from distinguished international BCI international experts.
Challenging themselves to develop and test their ideas, whereas failure does not bear any severe consequences.
The opportunity that students compete using their technical skills in developing new BCI ideas against other international students, in a fail-safe and friendly environment.
The possibility to win in order to get more confident and hardworking.
And when they actually won the BR41N.IO Hackathon, they started to believe in themselves that they are able to realize anything in 24 hours’ time.
Before the BR41N.IO Hackathon, mind-control a drone was a science fiction for my students. At least until they really won.
How do you teach with Unicorn Hybrid Black and what software applications do you use?
In first weeks, I give my student an overview about brain computer interface and its most popular applications.
In the middle of the semester, I start teaching them more details about the common three BCI principles (P300, SSVEP, and Motor Imagery). Then, I introduce them to Unicorn Hybrid Black for developing their own BCI projects. I teach them how to use P300 Speller software and how to adapt it to their projects. Then how to send commands via TCP/IP from Unicorn Hybrid Black to another laptop or robot. Usually, most of my undergraduate students are able to learn more about Unicorn Hybrid Black by themselves.
In addition, I started giving a one-day BCI workshop for our IT students every semester to attract brilliant students to BCI field.
And what kind of tasks do your students have to solve throughout one semester?
I always let my students propose their own ideas related to BCI. I ask them to make any possible invasive or non-invasive BCI applications comes first in their mind after reading some BCI articles.
Usually, they come out with some crazy ideas such as mind control of crazy people (mentally retarded) to do a certain job or to be a normal person using an implanted chip. Then I try to guide them to make realistic BCI applications using Unicorn Hybrid Black.
Unicorn Hybrid Black helps me as an instructor, to teach a multidisciplinary field for undergraduate IT students without wasting my time developing everything by myself.
The Unicorn EEG headset helps me to teach BCI aspects without going into all technical details and developing steps.
The Unicorn Education Kit makes teacher’s life easy to switch from theoretical to practical BCI aspects. As we say, you have to practice a lot in order develop your skills.
Why should Universities and Teachers use the Unicorn Education Kit for teaching?
I do believe that any university looking for a quick transfer of BCI practical knowledge (know-how) should use Unicorn Education Kit for teaching students how to develop brain computer interfaces in a few hours.
Using Unicorn Education Kit, our students will not only control wheelchair or robot but also create new hardly to imagine BCI applications in the near future.
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