Do-it-yourself microscope inventor aims to bring science to the people

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Almost half a million people have looked at Kenji Yoshino’s instructions for making a microscope. Using only a smartphone, a laser pointer and some bits of plastic and wood, Yoshino can build a microscope that can magnify things up to 325 times, all for only $10. You can see individual salt crystals, plant cells and much, much more. While my own rendition of the do-it-yourself microscope didn’t go over so well, I had a great time talking to Yoshino about it.

Yoshino has a passion for bringing science to the people. He is currently a post-baccalaureate assistant for the Science Learning Center at Grinell College in Iowa. He has started local programs such as “Try this at home,” where kids 8-12 can learn how to do science with items from the grocery or hardware store. And he is no stranger to DIY projects. He once made a bow and arrow set out of a pair of skis!

This previous experience came in handy when he made his now famous DIY microscope. But he didn’t set out to build a microscope. He found instructions online on how to use the lens from the inside of a laser pointer, strapped to your smartphone camera lens, to make a magnifying glass.

He tried it himself, and it worked! But it had some problems. The lens sat tight against the phone, blocking out the light for things he was trying to look at. Soon he was arranging desk lamps trying to get a better view. He also had trouble holding his phone steady enough with just his hand. He propped it up on the desk, but then had trouble with focus.

Written By: Bethany Brookshire
continue to source article at student.societyforscience.org

8 COMMENTS

  1. This previous experience came in handy when he made his now famous DIY microscope. But he didn’t set out to build a microscope. He found instructions online on how to use the lens from the inside of a laser pointer, strapped to your smartphone camera lens, to make a magnifying glass.

    There is an opportunity here for smart phone manufacturers to fit attachment rings so clip on lenses or photographic bellows units can be used.

    http://www.my-photo-school.com/2012/10/12/macro-photography-an-introduction/

    Use of 10 Dioptre Close Up Lens – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOS0rdoUJZU

  2. As a kid spent many hours looking through my microscope. Mostly I loved watching the creatures in pond scum from a ditch at the back of our property. The astounding amount of activity and the total number of beasties in even a drop were astounding. It really made it sink in how much bigger the universe is that the part we normally see. They were not just passive little blobs. They were constantly exploring their environment. I gave one to my neice and nephew who had similar fun.

    This would be a great gift to the child of a creationist. Not in theory controversial, but certainly subversive.

  3. Using only a smartphone, a laser pointer and some bits of plastic and wood, Yoshino can build a microscope that can magnify things up to 325 times, all for only $10.”

    lol, what about the cost of the smart phone?
    It should say, “Yoshino can build a $10 microscope accessory stand for your already purchased smart phone!”
    Anyway, hopefully this will inspire the actual manufactures themselves, to invest in the potential of using smartphones as a microscope.

    • My school district has purchased an iPad for every single student. Yes, even kindergarteners ! I saw this on Pharyngula about three weeks ago. It is also on a pretty cool website called “Instructables”.

      Anyway, I approached my building principal and the shop teacher about putting together the money (about $150) and the students (that’s where our awesome wood shop kids came into play) AND, I am very happy to report that we should have 15 of these awesome gadgets in less than two weeks.

      Why is this so awesome? Well, first of all it creates a cross curricular project and gets my Advanced science kids working with the shop kids as well as the shop kids working with the Advanced Biology kids. Both groups get to have pride in what they bring to the table.

      Also, when a student looks through a microscope, they are in the “science zone” and might never visit that zone again. However, and this is critical, when they use their iPhone or iPad to take digital pictures and movies of cytolysis/plasmolysis or mitosis or whatever phenomena I can devise, they CARRY the pictures and videos with them. They OWN them and as everyone in education will tell you, ownership of ideas and intellectual achievement is the holy grail.

      Also, they are more likely to revisit and share both the pictures and the experience. Imagine a kid all stoked about the cool pictures they took of the palisade layer of a leaf that they picked off a a bush and then showing their kid sister at the dinner table.

      POWERFUL STUFF!!!!

      My kids have responded enthusiastically and I can report to everyone that this idea is an EPIC WIN.

      In reply to #4 by Terra Watt:

      Using only a smartphone, a laser pointer and some bits of plastic and wood, Yoshino can build a microscope that can magnify things up to 325 times, all for only $10.”

      lol, what about the cost of the smart phone?
      It should say, “Yoshino can build a $10 microscope accessory stand for your already pur…

  4. Also, the site “Instructables” has thousands and thousands of instructional videos that guide you to be able to make tons of DIY (do it yourself) home projects. It is really cool. From Halloween costumes to, yes, digital microscopes!

    I recommend browsing it. I joined. I also plan on using objectives from old broken microscopes to enhance the magnification.

    I AM JAZZED!

  5. Last night was the monthly meeting or our local Horticultural Society. I made the mistake of telling everyone about this article, but that I had forgotten to bring the actual web site address. So now I have been ordered to make one and bring it as a Show & Tell for next month. That’ll teach me.

    • Rod, I just got my first prototype delivered from the shop department. It is so so so cool. I have to go out and buy the laser pointer to get it finished and then I’ll be tinkering with it. My Advanced kids are absolutely over the edge with excitement and the shop kids walked into my classroom carrying iy with their chests puffed out. I can’t tell you how important this has been to getting kids together and finding a “useful use” for the iphones and iPads!

      Please let me know if you follow through and make yours. I’d love to compare notes!

      In reply to #7 by rod-the-farmer:

      Last night was the monthly meeting or our local Horticultural Society. I made the mistake of telling everyone about this article, but that I had forgotten to bring the actual web site address. So now I have been ordered to make one and bring it as a Show & Tell for next month. That’ll teach me.

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