As half of Backyard Brains, neuroscientist and engineer Greg Gage builds the SpikerBox -- a small rig that helps kids understand the electrical impulses that control the nervous system. He's passionate about helping students understand (viscerally) how our brains and our neurons work, because, as he said onstage at TED2012, we still know very little about how the brain works -- and we need to start inspiring kids early to want to know more.
Before becoming a neuroscientist, Gage worked as an electrical engineer making touchscreens. As he told the Huffington Post: "Scientific equipment in general is pretty expensive, but it's silly because before [getting my PhD in neuroscience] I was an electrical engineer, and you could see that you could make it yourself. So we started as a way to have fun, to show off to our colleagues, but we were also going into classrooms around that time and we thought, wouldn't it be cool if you could bring these gadgets with us so the stuff we were doing in advanced Ph.D. programs in neuroscience, you could also do in fifth grade?" His latest pieces of gear: the Roboroach, a cockroach fitted with an electric backpack that makes it turn on command, and BYB SmartScope, a smartphone-powered microscope.