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10,000 free folding microscopes traded for inspiring ideas

Stanford University's Manu Prakash is looking to give away Foldscopes to field testers with interesting ideas for using the 50-cent gadget.

Prakash Lab/TED

The Foldscope -- a low-cost microscope that can be constructed like origami out of a sheet of paper with components embedded -- has the potential to revolutionize health care in developing countries -- but it has the potential to do something else, too.

Creator Manu Prakash of Stanford University's Prakash Lab wants to inspire a new generation of up-and-coming young scientists. To this end, he has created the Ten Thousand Microscope Project. Prakash will be giving away 10,000 Foldscopes to "people who would like to test the microscopes in a variety of settings and help us generate an open-source biology/microscopy field manual written by people from all walks of life."

Prakash Lab/TED

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

The idea is to create a guide that will show examples of how to use the microscope, collated from the field testers, who may have unique perspectives and use the Foldscope in ways that others might not even imagine, thus inspiring other Foldscope users.

To sign up, users have to send an email to the address listed here, detailing the community they belong to and at least one thing they would like to do with the Foldscope. Experiments will need to be documented in a way that makes them replicable by anyone. The Foldscopes will be shipped this year to the applicants judged to have the best ideas.

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

(Source: Crave Australia)