What do people say they want to look at with the FoldScope?

Ant_mandibles       Ant

Above: Ant mandibles (left) and leg (right)

Insect wing
Insect wing

Rat adrenal tissue from a college research project
Rat adrenal tissue from a college research project

 

A FoldScope Beta Testing Project Report

Patty Dineen, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

My Question: What do people say they’d like to use a FoldScope to look at?

This report contains the summary of a FoldScope testing project that twelve people (museum educators and students) participated in during summer 2015; and the responses they gathered from others after demonstrating how to use the FoldScope. Many thanks go to the twelve people who were willing to spend their time to help test the FoldScope.

About This FoldScope Testing Project

When the PrakashLab FoldScope team was soliciting people to beta test the newly-invented paper microscope, they were asking for applicants to propose a question that they would like to explore with a FoldScope. The question I proposed to test was: “after showing someone how to use and focus the FoldScope, what kinds of things do they say they would like to look at with the FoldScope?” This question interested me because in my experience when people (especially students in an educational setting) are introduced to a scientific tool, they are often given specific suggestions about ways to use it; what kinds of materials to use it on, and even given a supply of materials to choose from. I was interested in exploring what people would say they would like to use it for without prompting, or requiring that they actually do so.

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The questionnaire that testers used to interview people:

FoldScope beta-testing project – 2015

Tester’s name and FoldScope number:

Interview # (please do with at least three people):

Interviewee gender (circle):  male/female

Interviewee age (circle):    12 or under      13-18        19-40        40 +

Questions to ask the interviewee (after showing how to use the FoldScope):

Have you ever used a microscope before? (If yes, in what circumstances)

What five things (or kinds of things) would you like to look at with the FoldScope? Why?

2.

3.

4.

5.

If everyone who wanted to could carry a FoldScope in their pocket, what kinds of things do you think they would use it to look at?

Optional: List interviewee’s comments about the FoldScope, or about using it (was it hard or easy to use? Did it surprise them in any way? Etc.).

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My just-for-fun hypothesis

In considering what people might want to use a FoldScope to look at, I speculated that at least one-third of the answers would have something to do with using the FoldScope to look at some aspect of their own body, such as hair, skin, blood, etc. My reasoning behind this is that people have a natural curiosity about their own bodies – but although we all live in our bodies and are in many ways very familiar with what we’re made of, it’s also true that to most of us, much about our bodies is a mysterious, unknown, and unexplored universe made up of hard-to-visualize materials and processes. I imagined the FoldScope (and perhaps other kinds of high-quality equipment that may be part of the Frugal Science project in the future) might empower and unleash the imagination for people of any age to satisfy some curiosity about the stuff we are made of.

Summary

The testers showed the FoldScope to 42 people and received a total of 175 answers to the question: What things (or kinds of things) would you like to look at?

Those 175 answers were as follows in these categories (see all answers on pages 4-6):

47 animal-related answers (of which 35, or 20% of the total answers could be considered human-related, including “fingerprint” from the “other” category)

40 plant-related answers

32 insect/arthropod-related answers

15 water-related answers

6 clothes/fiber-related answers

35 “other” answers

Questions and Answers from completed questionnaires

Number of males: 18

Number of females:  23

(one unspecified)

Ages:   12 years or under:  3

13-18 years:  2

19-40 years:  5

40 years or older:  31

(one unspecified age)

Have used a microscope before for: (some cited more than one)

  • School: 32
  • Work: 12
  • Other: 9

Would like to look at:

(47 total) People said they’d like to look at something animal-related 47 times as follows:

  • Animal
    • (7) Hair (unspecified)
    • (5) Feathers
    • (5) Hair, Human
    • (4) Blood
    • (4) Hair, Dog
    • (3) Skin
    • (3) Skin (flake, scab)
    • (2) cells
    • (2) Hair, Cat
    • (1) Biopsied cells
    • (1) Cancer cell
    • (1) Cheek scrapings
    • (1) Dandruff
    • (1) Dog urine sample
    • (1) Inside an eyeball
    • (1) Muscle tissue
    • (1) Nail clippings
    • (1) Nail
    • (1) Saliva
    • (1) Small aquatic animals
    • (1) Tissue samples
    • (1) Toenail
    • (1) Worm

(40 total) People said they’d like to look at something plant-related 40 times as follows:

  • Plants (leaves, flowers, petals, etc.)
    • (8) Parts
    • (5) Flower petals
    • (5) Leaves
    • (4) Pollen
    • (3) Moss
    • (2) Flowers
    • (2) Plant cells
    • (2) Seed
    • (2) Spores
    • (1) Algae
    • (1) Apple skin
    • (1) Insect-eaten leaves (maybe to ID insect?)
    • (1) Lichen
    • (1) Onion cells
    • (1) Rice
    • (1) Small aquatic plants

(32 total) People said they’d like to look at something insect/arthropod-related 32 times as follows:

  • Insects, other arthropods
    • (10) Insects
    • (4) Dust mites
    • (3) Tick
    • (2) Bedbug
    • (2) Insect wing
    • (1) Bug scat
    • (1) Cat flea
    • (1) Dragonflies
    • (1) Flea
    • (1) Fly
    • (1) Micro bugs on eyelashes
    • (1) Mosquito
    • (1) Mosquito wing
    • (1) Parasite eggs (horses and dogs)
    • (1) Spider
    • (1) Woody Adelgid on hemlock trees

(15 total) People said they’d like to look at something water-related 15 times as follows:

  • Water
    • (4) Water (unspecified)
    • (3) Pond water
    • (2) Drinking water
    • (2) Rain water
    • (1) Bottled water (look for microorganisms)
    • (1) Contaminants
    • (1) Hay infusion
    • (1) Particles in water
    • (1) Water, clean and dirty
  • (6 total) Fibers/cloth
    • (3) Fibers
    • (1) Carpet fibers
    • (1) Clothes or fibers (unspecified)
    • (1) Piece of fabric (look at weave)

(34 total) Other:

  • (4) Soil
  • (3) Mold
  • (2) Sand
  • (1) Bacteria
  • (1) Brass harmonica reeds
  • (1) A bubble
  • (1) Car oil
  • (1) Corrosion byproducts (metal corrosion)
  • (1) Crystalline growth
  • (1) Defects in paint
  • (1) Dollar bill
  • (1) Drop of AW root beer
  • (1) Dust
  • (1) Ebola virus
  • (1) Filaments
  • (1) Fingerprint
  • (1) Flu virus
  • (1) Food
  • (1) Germs
  • (1) Grooves on a record
  • (1) Ice crystals (compare at different depths at North and South poles)
  • (1) Mushrooms
  • (1) Paper
  • (1) Penny
  • (1) Piece of soap
  • (1) Ringworm
  • (1) Seashells (architecture of)
  • (1) Sausage

(1) White sand compared to black sand

Some FoldScope users reported the following challenges to using the FoldScope:

  • Struggle to get a glass slide through the slots in the FoldScope
  • Being able to look through the lens to see the sample
  • Being able to focus well enough to see parts of the sample

It was a great pleasure to be able to be involved with this wonderful project.

End

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