Molly Rice, 7, of Kennebunk, cuts into the eye socket of a cow at the University of New England Brain Fair in Biddeford on Friday. UNE medical student Madison Tippetts assists. DINA MENDROS/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — Human brains, cow eyeballs and falling eggs were among the attractions at the sixth annual Brain Fair at the University of New England on Friday.

Several hundred people, many of them families, turned out for the free event at the Biddeford campus’s Harold Alfond Forum that was especially entertaining to children who got to view a human brain, dissect cow eyeballs, package eggs and watch them fall and control the movement of a ball using their brain power.

The purpose of the Brain Fair was twofold, said Ian Meng, Ph.D. a professor at UNE and director of the of the university’s Center of Excellence in the Neurosciences.

“The main purpose is welcoming the public and showing them the wonderful things the brain has to offer,” he said. “It’s like a science museum of the brain.”

University of New England students Jacob Sackett, left, and Katy Lowe assisted at the university’s Sixth Annual Brain Fair on Friday in Biddeford. Professor Ian Meng, Ph.D., right, was in charge of the event. DINA MENDROS/Journal Tribune

“The second (purpose) is for the (UNE) students who created everything” from experiments, to research, games and more, Meng said. Working with and talking to the public “is a great learning experience for them. … Communication about science is so important,” he said.

Meng took over shepherding the Brain Fair a few years ago and said when he did so he made a few changes. “I designed it so we focus more on scientific content,” he said, and divided the fair into different scientific themes, with sections focusing on the sensory system, the motor system and neuroanatomy or how the brain is structured. “There’s also fun, and arts and crafts,” he said, not to mention ice skating and free helmet fittings.


“New this year,” Meng said, was a section on brain myths, which he said dealt with a myth that vaccines cause autism. “Here’s something really topical,” he said, something really important for the public. As a university we have a role to play.”

UNE students Katy Lowe and Jacob Sackett manned a table on optical illusions dealing with “how the brain tricks you.” For instance, they had glasses that people who were color blind could use to see numbers that were in colors which they normally couldn’t distinguish between.

UNE medical student Roshan Petel manned a table that was very popular with children, where they got to dissect cow eyeballs. “The kids love it,” he said. “Hopefully it inspires (them) to go into something like this.”

Asher Schuenke, 9, of Saco, looks on as his sister Karis, 5, tries an experiment using her brain waves to move a ball at the University of New England’s Sixth Annual Brain Fair on Friday in Biddeford. UNE student Peter Newfeld runs the experiment. DINA MENDROS/Journal Tribune

Members of the Schuenke family of Saco tried an experiment that had a person put on head gear that reads brain waves. By concentrating it allows them to move a ball up and down through their brain waves. The Schuenke’s also tried other experiments.

“I’ve done the egg drop,” said Caelyn Schuenke, who attends second grade at the Governor John Fairfield School in Saco. “You put (an egg) in a lot of packaging (it drops from a great height) and see if it breaks.” She also tried an experiment where “we get some tea and drink it … and eat Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids and the flavors change.”

Second-grader Noah Cote, who attends St. James School in Biddeford, said he saw a human brain. In addition, he said, “we got to press a squishy brain and you could see what it’s doing to your muscles.”

Noah said his impression of the Brain Fair was “it’s really kind of cool.”

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be reached at 780-9014 or [email protected]

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