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Working with Foldscopes

Manu Prakash at Stanford University has invented a new kind of microscope, called the FoldScope. It is made from paper and a ball lens; it's completely flat, easy to transport and almost impossible to break. This makes it a great first microscope for kids. We joined a team of talented students at Stanford University [1] and visited a group of students at the East Palo Alto Charter School to use the Foldscopes in a classroom activity.

Building a Foldscope

(Image by M4k)

We met with one of Manu Prakash's lab members, Jim Cybulski, and the BioBus group to learn how to make a Foldscope.

We started by popping out the pieces of the Foldscope from a laser-cut pattern:

(Image by M4k)
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Then, by way of some folding and assembly, we arrived at the final product: a completed Foldscope:

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Foldscopes have a tiny ball lens that provides the magnification; the Foldscope shown in the image above has a small LED that allows it to project images, onto a surface such as a wall or piece of paper.

Exploring with Foldscopes

Once the Foldscopes were built, we took them to the school to work with students. We went outside and collected various samples.

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We used those samples to make slides for students to look at:

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Sample slides can be made by taking a simple plastic or glass slide, and using clear tape to affix the sample onto the slide.

Students then made observations about their samples.

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Working with the Foldscopes gave the students a way to quickly and easily make observations about the natural world. We additionally had students build the microscopes themselves, giving them the chance to see how the microscope worked, and then use it for their projects.

To learn more about the Foldscope project and outreach efforts, and to obtain your own Foldscope, feel free to follow these links:

Manu Prakash iBiology Foldscope talk: [2] Moore Foundation Foldscope site: [3] Manu Prakash's Foldscope website: [4] Manu Prakash's TED talk: [5]

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