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Free DIY microscope kits to citizen scientists with inspiring project ideas

Free DIY microscope kits to citizen scientists with inspiring project ideas


Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash, PhD, is giving away 10,000 build-your-own paper microscope kits to citizen scientists with the most inspiring ideas for things to do with this new invention.

This invention, called Foldscope, is a print-and-fold optical microscope that can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper. Although it costs less than a dollar in parts, it can magnify objects over 2,000 times and is small enough to fit in a pocket.

Prakash initiated The Ten Thousand Microscopes Project, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, as a way to open up the wonders of the microscopic world to future generations of scientists and engineers. Prakash, who entered and won science fairs as a child in India, clearly wishes that he had a tool like this when growing up.

“Many children around the world have never used a microscope, even in developed countries like the United States,” said Prakash. “A universal program providing a microscope for every child could foster deep interest in science at an early age.”


Through this project, he and his team will assemble a crowd-sourced biology microscopy manual that includes examples of creative uses for his microscope, collected from the scientists, teachers, tinkerers, thinkers, hackers and kids who participate.

“So many times people use a tool for one specific purpose and don’t realize the rich potential for other uses,” said Prakash. “This online manual will inspire further explorations.”

To apply for a Foldscope kit, submit ideas on how you would use your microscope to signup (at) foldscope (dot) com. Recipients must pledge to document their experiments in a way that could be replicated by anyone. Submission details and sample proposals are posted at Kits will be shipped in August 2014 to the applicants with the best ideas.

“My dream is that someday, every kid will have a Foldscope in their back pocket,” said Prakash.

Previously: Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope, Stanford microscope inventor featured on TED Talk, Stanford bioengineer developing an “Electric Band-Aid Worm Test and Stanford bioengineers create an ultra-low-cost oral cancer screening tool
Photos by TED and Prakash Lab

49 Responses to “ Free DIY microscope kits to citizen scientists with inspiring project ideas ”

  1. Bill Ryan Cabral Says:

    I love your paper microscope!!!
    I am only a student
    (grade 7)that wants to know about the small things and your paper microscope is the easiest way to study it and its very light because its only the microscope that I could bring everywhere.
    I also want to show it to my classmates and teachers.
    I want to have one of them!!!

  2. Pauline Cousins Says:

    I would give this microscope to my grandson Max who wants to go into engineering but just doesn’t know what kind of engineer. This would give him an chance to experiment and see the wonders available to him. Please consider sending me one for Max. Thank you in advance.

  3. Anton Winter Says:


    Where i could get some of your foldscopes? could you ship to germany? it is realy only cuted paper and a LED for light? .pdf or .svg maybe? I have some connections to africa i think they could need such a microscope.

  4. Donald Kolko Says:

    With money for classroom equipment and supplies being cut for most schools, this comes as at perfect time to introduce young students to the wonders of the microscopic world. I’d like to have one to play with (I’m a tinkerer), but I don’t believe I’d have much to report. Keep up the good work.

  5. Robyn Schofer Says:

    We homeschool my son who is in the 3rd grade. This paper scope would be so much easier than going to the nature center and getting someone to pull out a microscope everytime we wanted to look at a bug, flower, feather etc….

  6. Susan brown Says:

    My grandson would love your microscope. He is a budding biologist and loves to look at small things. What a great invention.,

  7. Carl Feinstein Says:

    My four year old, very bright grand-daughter loves look at things under a magnifying glass. It if very gratifying to see her not taking for granted common objects, especially flowers, seeds, ants, etc. It truly is inspiring for her to notice that there is “more than meets the eye (without magnification. Something simple, elegant, and inexpensive is a better way to start with a microscope than a discarded school microscope, or the pieces of junk you find in toy stores.

  8. Tom Oghalai Says:

    I Am only in 4th grade but I love to look at small things. I have been asking My mom For a microscope for months.

  9. Jason Brader Says:

    I like to tinker with arduino, design, and make. I work in a printshop where we prototype new packaging ideas. Give me a shot at testing the design and seeing how it works. Your TED talk was really fun to watch.

  10. ken beauregard Says:

    I would like scope for my grandson.He is going into a vocational- technical school program this fall(2014).He has a active curiosity about many parts of life and nature.The scope will enhance his school work and Boy Scout life and leadership paths. I know he would find the scope “cool”and find many things to investigate.Thanks in advance for your consideration.

  11. Kamel Jammalieh Says:

    I am a biophysics student and this kind of technology, the foldscope is something that I have thirst for, I mean this is some kind of a revolution in science. This will change the way wee see biology forever. Someone who thrives for science would love to have a foldscope, and I would love to have one as well specially while I am enrolled in school; to experiment the potential and advantages of such a device, which I believe are great.

  12. Lisa Says:

    This is awesome! This summer the theme for our church’s vacation Bible school is called Agency 3D. These would be so great to use as one of the crafts; a craft that would inspire them to explore God’s world up close in nature. Am definitely interested in the ability to print these and the directions for making them. We would need a about 300 for our VBS.

  13. Andy Kyllo Says:

    I would use this to check pool, spa, and potable water (and other water my kids are thinking of swimming in) to check for dangerous microbes. Especially when the water’s maintenance is in question!

  14. Andy Kyllo Says:

    I forgot to mention I am also a teacher at an alternative school in a small one-room schoolhouse. We do not have funds for microscopes, so I have to rely on videos for science experiments. Having a classroom supply of these microscopes would be incredible for my students.

  15. Bunny Morrow Says:

    I would like to have your kit for two USA veterinarians living in Costa Rica. They would be better able to help stray animals if they could better diagnose illnesses. Healthier animals also helps towards better human health.

  16. raul Says:

    I would love to have one im only in 6 grade but I love science I hope to visit the moon one day

  17. Alfredo Faustino Says:

    I would like to give one to my grandson who is a junior in high school. The second scope will be for my medical mission abroad I am a retired Medical Technologist and if I could get extra number of scopes am willing to pay for it, just to be able to help my fellow human being. God bless you.

  18. Karen Says:

    I saw your video. I love this idea. I teach and would love to show these to my class. Having said this I hope the ones you have go where they are truly needed most. When you start selling them online I look forward to getting some. Thanks for creating such an awesome thing.

  19. Joung Yeon Park Says:

    Hi! I am high school students from South Korea. While I was searching for interesting project, I saw your video. It was very amazing and I can’t believe that only one dollar can save hundreds and thousands people who were suffering from malaria and other diseases that can be found by your “foldscope”. I really love to study about your project and I had already read your thesis. Truly, it was hard to understand everything, but I really tried hard and I discussed this issue for more than a week with my science club. We are group of 10 people and we are eager to do this project. Also I really appreciate you to do this wonderful thing for poor kids in many other countries. Thanks.

  20. Lisa Aung-Din Says:

    I teach middle school age . I also have an 18 year old son who works at a State park and spends a lot of time in remote areas , I would love to purchase these microscopes both for my class and son. Please send me info on how to get some once they are available to ” the masses” WONDERFUL WONDERFUL invention ! Thank you for using your ingenuity and intelligence “for good” and the education and salvation of many! Such an amazing tool and practical !

  21. aldo sandoval Says:

    I saw your video .I would like to give one to my school. I would like to buy your kit for veterinarians school in Chile. We be better able to help stray animals if they could better diagnose illnesses. Healthier animals also helps towards better human health. –

  22. Edward W. Verner Says:

    I am studying how magnetic fields at different
    frequencies effect water bears. THEY are very
    difficult to find and it would be great if I had a
    tool to help me find them that is portable
    while searching for them. I have digital motic
    microscope phase contrast and dark field
    but nothing portable.

  23. Edmund Fung Says:

    Just wondering what type of paper you printed the template on. The device will be used in a humid environment and would easily degrade it. Maybe a waterproofed (waxed) paper such as that used in paper cup which should be cheap enough and increase its useful life by 10 times or more. Yes I am a mech engineer! A sample of your device would be useful if you want a proposed next gen to be made from a coke can or disposable bottle water . Regards

  24. Stacy Puckett Says:

    My sons(3) loves science, I saw your video, foldscope is a great idea. I want the kits for my young scientists.

  25. Tom Shamp Says:

    I am a docent at the California Academy of Science in San Francisco. I am always looking for new ways to help visitors, especially young people, to realize the beauty of natural science. Your foldscope would be an ideal tool to bring the details of nature in view within a museum setting. I would love to have one to try on the floor of the museum and to show to my colleagues.

  26. Rosa Says:

    Congratulations for this wonderful idea! I’m a Biology teacher in a High School in Spain. I would love to have one of this to encourage my students to keep investigating and discovering our amazing world.

  27. Prof Sanette Brits Says:

    This is brilliant! I am in science and nanotechnology education and my wish is for South African rural children, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana to all have this microscopes! It will be amazing

  28. Bob Garrett Says:

    How absolutely marvelous! The foldscope looks like a modernized version of Anton van Leeuwenoek’s fabulous microscope done in paper rather than brass and iron. Congratulations, Dr. Prakash, for modernizing an old tool and raising awareness of how important simple tools can be to solving enormous problems faced in improving health in poorer aeas of the world.

  29. Evelyn Anemaet Says:

    This is a remarkable invention, with the potential to revolutionize science, education and medicine. I am a biologist who works in wetlands and the ability to take equipment into the field is essential. If this lightweight, essentially disposable foldscope could be made to resist water, enough to be used with wet hands, we would definitely buy it! A quick, cheap way to check for E. coli in wetlands and streams would be a great way to protect the public. Thank you for this great idea!

  30. Susan Heierling, HT,HTL (ASCP) Says:

    I would like to find out how to get one of these foldscopes. I work in a Hospital and we have many Doctors that ask us for our old microscopes (Non Electrical) to take to Africa, Haiti and other countries that they go to for Doctors beyond borders. This would be a great help to their cause. I had given your article to one of those Doctors and he and his interns were very interested but didn’t know how to get this wonderful device. Could you please help me to acquire this information to pass on to our doctors. Thanks.

  31. MILKY WAY - ITALY Says:

    Dear Dr Prakash, congratulation for you important invention.
    Milky Way is a little Italian charity organization made of voluntary people who operates in Northern Ghana ( Rural District of Chereponi) with practical projects in the fields of education and health for children.
    I am certain that your foldscope can be very important for better hygene, health and kwnoledge of our children and rural communities.
    We need 100 foldoscope and we would buy them if you could not send them for free; in addition we pay for the shipping. This is our address in Italy: MILKY WAY ONLUS – VIA LLANBERIS, 4 – 23017 MORBEGNO – ITALY
    Thank you,
    Mariaelena De Martin (Chairperson of Milky Way Onlus – Italy)


    Is it possible to have some Foldscopes for charity organization in Haiti ?
    Or where is possible to buy few kits ?


  33. jignesh Says:

    congrats for new innovation i am doctor from gujrat india i am highly impressed by ur india there will be huge demand of ur device as malaria is epidemic here. i also request u to work on cheaper medical device like endoscope,robotic surgery,flexible ureteroscope,lasers . if possible on prosthesis thanks and congrats once again . u r the proud of nation

  34. terion Says:

    I would make hundreds of foldscopes out of good on one side recycled/reclaimed paper and leave them everywhere around my town as a recycling/educatio n/environmental community project.

  35. Barbaros Says:

    Foldscope is an amazing paper microscope. It is cheap but magic invention. I conragulate you for this invention.I am wood anatomist. I think that can I use it for wood identification? Where can I get it from?
    Best Wishes

  36. POONAM Says:

    I want this microscope for my son who is determined to be a doctor. where can I get it from?

  37. Sungmoo Byeon Says:

    I live in South Korea and I am a father of 3 children. In Korea, education is literally killing next generation. Incredible competition among PARENTS are driving them crazy.
    They are learning science only by books. Experiments classes are sacrificed to lecture classes.
    We need our next generation to experience ‘real’ science. Give us a chance. It will hit hard and spread fast in Korea.

  38. Steve Autry Says:

    Can this concept be used to create other optical devices such as a paper telescope at a similar cost?

  39. Pam Steckler Says:

    Dr. Prakash, you (and Stanford) are terrific! I’d love to have a foldscope just to “check things out” – in the woods, yard, anywhere! I’d also like to give one or two to the “Discovery Space” in our town and a couple to the local elementary school less than a block from my home. It would be so great to encourage kids to learn more about the world in which we live. The more you know it, the more you love it, the more you want to protect it. I’d really like to purchase some! Please let me know if they are available.
    Thanks so much for your work and interest in sharing.

  40. Tajen Hu Says:

    I am a teacher from Taiwan. The paper microscope is a magic invention it’s good tool to education children. Dengue fever is a disease in which one of the mosquito abuse in southern Taiwan. If use the foldscope let child to know how danger of the denque we can reduce the disease.
    Where can I get(or buy) it from?

  41. Joop Blom Says:

    Foldscope is an exiting development. As an 82 year old retired agricultural engineer having worked in Africa and Asia, I would love to get hold of this thing to play and experiment with.

  42. ADougherty Says:

    Our school would like to raise money to send the Fold Scopes to countries who could use these to prevent diseases. Is there a resource where contributions could go?

  43. Alvin Dormaier Says:

    When will these be available for sale. I sponser children in Latin America and would love to see these in their schooling as well as other limited resource schools around the world as well in our local schools here.

  44. Joyce H-B Says:

    I would like to get 8 of these for my great-nieces and nephews. They are young enough to be curious and exploring their world. Esp my 7 year old LT. My sister is disabled but is raising her and has very limited funds to give her experiences. She is so interested in science and making the world a better place. If they were available for sale I would be happy to buy them.

  45. Bmacattack Says:

    We are a homeschooling family and would love to buy one of your paper fold up microscopes! Brilliant!!! When and where can we find these for sale?

  46. Doug Says:

    If I’m not to late I would really like to get involved in this project. Our public school could use the help in their Science program. FFA is often neglected but they could really use some of these to diagnose illness in livestock. Our 4-H clubs would have the same use, as well as untold project areas. County Fair exhibits will take on a whole new life. Our Home School Network I’m sure would be very interested in these, everyone having their own microscope would be invaluable to their science program. Another place I would like to introduce the Foldscope is at our Public Library, they could have a few assembled that patrons could check out… just like a library book. they would also have one in mint condition to use on the copier. they could load the appropriate weight paper or card stock, pay their ten cent per copy fee and have their very own Foldscope.
    On another note, if you are looking for distributors, I would love to be your South Central US dealer.

  47. Floyd Stuart Says:

    I am interested in obtaining a Foldscope for research in the dynamics of my studies in microbiology and helping to find cures for cancerous tumor research.

  48. Linda Johns Says:

    I would love to get one of these for my 6 year old granddaughter who is a budding scientist. She devours books on science and is totally curious about what makes up the world around her.

  49. B Botts Says:

    Please let me know when these are available. Want to use at home (for parasite detection at present). Can see a great need for these for checking water purity to prevent disease.


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