Engage and Enable Blog

The aim of this blog is to show what’s happening at the Center for Neurotechnology among its faculty, student and staff members. To learn more about the center and its work, visit our Feature Stories page.


Kayla Brown, 26, is a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Washington (UW). A self-described activist with an interest in social justice, Brown works at DO-IT, a center that supports students who are disabled and interested in STEM (science, technology, education and mathematics). 

DO-IT stands for disabilities, opportunities, internetworking and technology. Staff and leaders from DO-IT work closely with the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE).

As part of her job, Brown works one-on-one with people with disabilities. She facilitates mentoring sessions and works with students on transitioning to college and stays in contact throughout the year.

When four University of Washington students won a tech design competition last March at the CSNE, that might have been the end of the story. But it's not. Since that time, team vHAB has continued to refine and improve on the virtualy reality rehabilitation system they created for the competition. They've worked closely with the UW's Center for Commercialization and have received funding from the Coulter Foundation.

Art can represent the brain, according to Eb Fetz, University of Washington professor in the Department of Physiology & Biophysics and CSNE researcher.  Fetz gave the low-key, entertaining keynote speech at a Center gathering held November 6 in Seattle. He was selected to talk as a primer (pun intended) for an art contest; submissions came from labs, projects and staff involved in the CSNE.

Sam Dreyer, 24, thought he might have a career in mixed martial arts, until he was knocked out in a fight and diagnosed with a concussion in 2010. The blow was intense enough that he didn’t recognize his fiancée, Noelle, immediately afterwards. 

“That got me thinking about the brain and if mixed martial arts was something I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life,” Dreyer said. “I started reading up about the brain, found it super-interesting and thought, ‘maybe I should stop getting punched in the head,’” he said, chuckling. Noelle, now his wife, encouraged him to study up on the topic.

Lars Crawford, graduate of the Neurobiology/Computational Neuroscience program’s class of 2014, was recently accepted into the Technology Commercialization Fellowship Program at the University of Washington’s Center for Commercialization for his work on a virtual home rehabilitation system called vHAB. Lars and his teammates have created a kinematic hand sensor and custom EMG sleeve that controls a set of dynamic games that emulate traditional upper extremity therapy tasks. vHAB is designed to keep people motivated in their home rehabilitation while collecting data over time that can help with recovery.