This week has been a hectic one as the lecture season has begun. Most of the time, I’m giving keynotes or plenary presentations at conferences. But every now and then I have the chance to appear at a library or a school. I always enjoy these opportunities because I get the chance to talk to…

Portrait of happy kids, smiling, outdoors
Kids!

Let me tell you, when children are in the audience, I’m always sure to see a raised hand when I ask a question. They are always engaged and enjoy the feeling of participation.

But there is a slight caveat. No matter how much I try to explain the physical aspects of germs, words are simply not enough. The kids want to see as well as hear. Granted, I could use slides but even then, it’s still an abstract photo. To really get a good perspective on the size, shape and movement of microbes…

kid-scopeYou need a microscope.

It’s not easy, however, to achieve this, particularly when you’re talking in an auditorium or gym hall. It takes time to get a scope properly prepared and then, allowing everyone the chance to actually see the microbes can be a logistics nightmare. If you don’t believe me…

santaJust ask Santa!

But last week, a possible solution was published in the journal PLOS One. A group of scientists figured out how to make a microscope with believe it or not…


A smartphone!

They call it the LudusScope. Rather than explaining the name, I’ll simply quote what is in the text of the article.

“We call this open-source platform the LudusScope, as the Latin term “ludus” refers to “play/game” as well as “(elementary) school”; embracing a historical perspective on how playfulness and learning are intertwined.”

The concept is brilliant but what makes this even more amazing is the relative simplicity of design. The authors suggest you can do it yourself…

scope-partsAlthough a kit may be better…

What makes LudusScope even better is the portability. Once everything is in place, it’s still incredibly small…

scope3(The authors blurred the faces)

The authors developed this microscopy to engaged a variety of learning skills including as they state: observation, exploration, data collection, and hypothesis testing. As you might guess, when they tested their theory, they were met with success.

But in terms of science awareness in the public, this system may one day allow kids – and adults – gain a deeper understanding of microbes. By linking up the smartphone to a projector, an entire audience may be able to see the wonders of the microscopic world. They may even be able to say…

now-i-get-it(This was too cute to omit)

At the moment, the LudusScope is still in the development stage. But once it become available, it may be help teachers, lecturers, and yes, even Germ Guys, provide a glimpse into the microbial world once impossible to provide.

If you want to read the entire paper, you can find it here:
PLOS ONE: LudusScope: Accessible Interactive Smartphone Microscopy for Life-Science Education

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