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Project 8: Building and using the “FlyPi”: the 3D-printed Neurobiology Lab

Authors: Andre Maia Chagas / Eric James McDermott / Valerio Raco



Small, genetically tractable species such as larval zebrafish, Drosophila, or Caenorhabditis elegans have become key model organisms in modern neuroscience. In addition to their low maintenance costs and easy sharing of strains across labs, one key appeal is the possibility to monitor single or groups of animals in a behavioural arena while controlling the activity of select neurons using optogenetic or thermogenetic tools. However, the purchase of a commercial solution for these types of experiments, including an appropriate camera system as well as a controlled behavioural arena, can be costly. Here, we present a low-cost and modular open-source alternative called the ‘FlyPi’. Our design is based on a 3D-printed mainframe, a Raspberry Pi computer, and high-definition camera system as well as Arduino-based optical and thermal control circuits. Depending on the configuration, the FlyPi can be assembled for about €100 and features optional modules for light-emitting diode (LED)-based fluorescence microscopy and optogenetic stimulation as well as a Peltier-based temperature stimulator for thermogenetics. All functions of the FlyPi can be controlled through a custom-written graphical user interface. To demonstrate the FlyPi’s capabilities, we present its use in a series of state-of-the-art neurogenetics experiments. In addition, we demonstrate the FlyPi’s utility as a medical diagnostic tool as well as a teaching aid at Neurogenetics courses held at several African universities. Taken together, the low cost and modular nature as well as fully open design of the FlyPi make it a highly versatile tool in a range of applications, including the classroom, diagnostic centres, and research labs.

A list of 1-5 key papers / online materials summarising the subject:




A List of requirements for taking part in the project (education level / English level / programming language required):

Maximum number of participants:

20, working in pairs (participants do not need to apply in pairs, but this would be advantageous for building, maintaining and working with the FlyPi)

What participants gain/learn from this project:

In this project we want to teach participants how to build a DIY and affordable neurobiology lab. By having a hands on approach, participants will learn how to:

Is there a plan for extending this work to a peer-reviewed paper in case the results are promising?

The project can be extended to a peer-reviewed paper when participants and project leaders think about educational literature.