When Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash, PhD, and his students set out to solve a challenging global health problem, the first order of business is to have fun.
“We’re a curiosity-driven lab,” says Prakash, as he sits in his office overflowing with toys, gadgets, seashells and insect exoskeletons.
In the last month, Prakash introduced two new cool science tools — a 50-cent paper microscope and a $5 programmable kid’s chemistry set. The response from fellow science lovers, compiled on this Storify page, has been amazing.
Already, 10,000 kids, teachers, health workers and small thinkers from around the globe have signed up to receive build-your-own-microscope kits. Thousands more have sent us e-mails describing the creative ways they’d use a microscope that they could carry around in their back pockets.
For the love of science, here are a few of these inspirational e-mails:
I would love to have one. I’m only in 6th grade but I love science. I hope to visit the moon one day. — Raul
I am an electrical engineer from Kenya and have never used a microscope in all my life. But what I would really like to do is to avail the foldscope to students in a primary school that I am involved in mentoring. This apart from hopefully inspiring them in the wonders of science, would enable the students see the structure of the mosquito proboscis, a malaria-spreading agent in this part of the world. I would also like to look at the roots of mangrove trees and see the structure that enables them to keep sea water salts out. — Macharia Wanyoike
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 these microscopes! It will be amazing. — Professor Sanette Brits, University of Limpopo, South Africa
I am studying how magnetic fields at different frequencies affect 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 darkfield microscopes but nothing portable. — Edward W. Verner (Water bear shown to the left.)
I could use it to check if patients have scabies. Or if I were visiting remote monasteries in the Himalayas where they have outbreaks. I’d definitely pack it. For myself I’d use it on nature walks. GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT for mankind. Congratulations. — Linda Laueeano, RN
Hi! I am a high school student 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. — Joung Yeon Park
I am assisting a K-12 community school with creating a STEAM Innovation Knowledge HUB, as they are trying to move their Common Core Curriculum into a STEM to STEAM driven program. It would be great to receive several Foldscopes or be able to purchase. Please contact me ASAP. Congratulations on a great new support product and great innovation. Thank you, smile. — Dr. Dion N. Johnson, Wayne State University
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. — Rosa
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. — Tom Shamp
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. — Aldo Sandoval
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 about 300 for our VBS. — Lisa
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! 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. — Andy Kyllo
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. — Alfredo Faustino
Previously: Music box inspires a chemistry set for kids and scientists in developing countries, Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope and Free DIY microscope kits to citizen scientists with inspiring project ideas
Photo of a child building a paper microscope by Norbert Von Der Groeben; photo of a pond-dwelling tardigrade, aka “water bear” from Vicky Madden & Bob Goldstein, UNC Chapel Hill