Remember the microscope you used in school when you were a kid? Now you can use Lego bricks to DIY them one by one.
This is very much in line with the current trend of "frugal science": use cheap consumer-grade hardware and open source software to build low-cost scientific instruments. DIY instruments are very suitable for teaching.
▲Foldscope, a microscope made of paper, picture from: MoMA
In teaching activities, the instrument that students have the most exposure to is often the microscope.
Timo Betz of the University of Göttingen believes that microscopes are essential scientific instruments, but their use in classrooms is greatly restricted due to the cost and fragility of the instruments, especially in During the epidemic. Therefore, they decided to use Lego bricks to build a cheaper microscope.
Bates was inspired by the Lego microscope, the LegoScope, made in 2013 by Harrison Liu, a graduate student at the University of California, San Francisco. But LegoScope is not actually a "low-cost" microscope, it still needs to use custom 3D printed parts.
▲LegoScope, picture from: Synapse
The Lego microscope of Bates et al. is different. In their microscope, only two parts are not Lego blocks-a high-power objective lens and a low-power objective lens. They used the plastic lens in the iPhone 5's camera module as a high-magnification objective, and the low-magnification objective was a glass lens.
"After carefully separating the lens from the camera module, we attached it to the Lego bricks with scotch tape." Bates wrote in the paper.
▲Timo Bates, picture from: Ars Technica
For lighting, they used a special Lego brick integrated with LEDs. In addition, they placed a piece of thin paper between the LED and the sample, which acts like a soft light shade on a photographic lamp.
You may be curious, what is the hardest part to complete a microscope with Lego bricks? The answer may be: objective lens holder.
After some research, Bates and his colleagues combined the rack and worm to allow the user to adjust the focus.
"Although the objective lens holder is the smallest of all the individual components of the microscope, it has the highest requirements for the strength and stability of the structure." Bates said, "Therefore, the construction of this part should be older and more Experienced children must at least be accompanied by an adult to prevent mistakes in the early stages of building the microscope."
After completing the microscope design, Bates tested their DIY microscope with the help of a group of 9 to 13-year-old children.
Together they built a microscope and conducted some experiments. This DIY microscope has helped these children explore the microscopic world very well, and let them understand the working principle of the microscope.
"Understanding science is not only helpful for decision-making, it can also bring many benefits to daily life, such as cultivating problem-solving thinking and ability." Bates said.
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