Explore Microscopy

Explore
Microscopy



Welcome to Explore Microscopy presented by the Stowers Institute for Medical Research as part of the Kansas City Remake Learning Days Festival. We are excited to be a part of the festival and grateful to the KC STEM Alliance for bringing it to Kansas City for the first time.

Come with us on an exploration as we share our love of microscopes and the joy of scientific discovery.

We are no longer handing out kits, but Foldscopes & accessories can be purchased at the Foldscope Store.

Once you have your Foldscope, the exploration begins below. The activities are designed for ages 11/12+ but all ages are welcome to participate.

For questions, please contact Karen Staehling at ksh@stowers.org


Make a Microscope

What Your Origami Microscope is Capable of

Inside the mesh packet of your Explore Microscopy Kit is a powerful tool called a Foldscope that you can use to explore the hidden world around you.  You might be amazed to find out that this tool is a paper microscope that you can make yourself.  Even though it is self-assembled and costs less than a dollar to produce, it is capable of viewing objects at 140X magnification and 2 micron resolution.  

What can you see at 140X magnification with your foldscope? 
The power of a microscope explained

Guess the image

Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Mosquito Head!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Bee Leg!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Feather!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out
It's a Mouse Eye!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Planaria!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Mouse Kidney!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Nematostella (sea anemone)!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Mouse Spleen!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Butterfly Wing!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Wild Violet Petal!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Fern Rhizome!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
Those are Cat Hairs!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's Kelp!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Tulip Petal!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's an Onion Root!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Fruit Fly (Drosophila) Wing!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
It's a Lilac Petal!
Can you guess what this is?
Click to find out.
Those are Fish Gills!

Cutting Edge Research Microscopy

What are the limits of what you can see with a microscope? What are Stowers scientists doing to push those limits? What are we discovering using imaging?

This animation/video will take you on a microscopy journey from X to X.  Along the way we point out the technology that makes those images possible.  How small can we go and how does that compare to a Foldscope Find out!

The Foldscope Origin Story

The inventor of the Foldscope, Manu Prakash, developed this microscope to give anyone the ability to be a scientist, to ask curiosity-driven questions and to explore the world around them.  Watch the video on the right to learn more about Foldscope.
Manu Prakash visited the Stowers Institute for Medical Research as part of our BIG IDEAS @ScienceStowers seminar series.

The BIG IDEAS @ScienceStowers lectures bring cutting-edge and provocative scientific ideas in an engaging and accessible way to the greater Kansas City community.  They are our version of TED talks. The series is designed to inspire a thirst for scientific knowledge and illustrate the roles that scientific discoveries play in our lives and communities.

To view his seminar, videos from past talks and to find out about upcoming seminars click HERE

Instructions for Making Your Microscope

Instructions for making a microscope are in your kit but watching a video can be helpful.  On the right is a step-by-step video in English.

Foldscope Assembly videos are available in Spanish, Chinese and other languages too.
Translated Videos

Explore the Microscopic World Around You

Viewing Your First Slide

Now that you've made your microscope it's time to look at some slides! We highly recommend starting with the slide provided in your kit before moving on to making your own slides. There are three ways to look at samples with your Foldscope: by eye, through your cell phone camera or by projecting an image on a wall. Check out the video to learn more.

Making Your First Slide

Time to create your first slides using the materials we have provided and simple objects you can find in your home, backyard or neighborhood.  Creating slides is easy. Check out the three activities below. Do one or all three!

In your kit are two small bags of salt: Table salt and Kosher salt. They look similar to the naked eye but what do they look like with your Foldscope? Watch the video, make a slide and find out. For this activity you will need the following materials supplied in your kit:

  • 2 paper slides (ones with 2 rectangular holes)   
  • clear stickers   
  • 2 small bags of salt
  • LED light
  • Phone coupler
  • An assembled Foldscope

The video shows someone observing the salt samples with a phone but you can also view them with your eye.

When the weather gets warm, dandelions come out to play everywhere in parks and in backyards. What’s the secret to their success and how they can spread so easily? Watch the video, make a slide and find out. For this activity you will need the following materials supplied in your kit as well as a dandelion:

  • 2 paper slides (ones with 2 rectangular holes)  
  • clear stickers
  • LED light
  • Phone coupler
  • An assembled Foldscope

The video shows someone observing dandelions with a phone but you can also view them with your eye. Thin petals of other flowers can also be viewed with your foldscope.
In this activity you will be examining an LCD computer screen up close. If you don’t have access to a computer almost any LCD screen will work like those found on a phone or tv. The video will instruct you to disassemble your Foldscope temporarily. Don’t worry; it will go back together. Just be careful. You don’t even need to make an actual slide for this activity, but you’ll need to gather the following materials:
  • An LCD screen (computer, phone, TV)
  • Phone coupler
  • An assembled Foldscope

The video shows someone observing an LCD screen with a phone but you can also view it with your eye.

Unleash Your Curiosity. What Will You Discover?

Now that you've gained some experience it's time to explore and create your own adventure! Look around your house, your back yard or your neighborhood.  What would you like to examine close-up at 140X? What are you curious about? What do you want to look at first?

Share Your Discoveries

Scientists don't just keep their discoveries to themselves. They share them with other scientists and with the world! We invite you to share your images, observations and discoveries in the Microcosmos Foldscope community. Sign in under the user name, “Explore Microscopy Project”. The password is “Remake Learning!”.  

You can also share your images on social media.  There are links to share to Twitter and Facebook directly from Microcosmos.

Alternatively, you can log into your personal social media accounts directly and share.

Share on Microcosmos

Share your images and discoveries on social media using the following hashtags and tags: #RemakeDays, #RemakeDaysKC, #ScienceinKC, @ScienceStowers, @remakelearningdays

Explore Further with Stowers Scientists

From Scientific Sample to Image

Tour the Stowers Electron Microscopy Facility and Get an Extreme Close-up of an Amazing Animal

We Make so Many Microscope Slides at the Stowers Institute We Need a Robot

Looking to Small Worms for Big Answers

Beautiful Images and Cutting Edge Science from Stowers Researchers

Additional Resources

We recommend these external sites for further exploration of the microscopic world and imaging science: