When we had the opportunity to create and use foldscopes during our Ecology class lab, I was excited beyond belief. The thought that I could create a $1 microscope and then use it to observe the world around me was astounding.
The assembly process itself was fairly simple, though I did make some small mistakes that I later had to correct. I went outside Guyot Hall, where our class is held, and found samples to image. I settled on a small cutting of the leaf of a ground cover plant and a small sample of moss.
It was the imaging process that was the most time consuming, however. The moss sample did not even show up in the lens because it was too thick and blocked out any light from passing through. To remedy this problem for the leaf sample, I used a flashlight as a backlight. However, the leaf just showed up as an expanse of green, as shown below.
After much time, I got the foldscope to focus on the leaf and was able to see the leaf veins and sections of green plant cells. I found that placing the flashlight slightly farther away improved the image quality because it was not overexposed. Figuring out the most efficient way to take pictures of the foldscope observation was also tricky.
Further reducing the light led to even more interesting observations. The foldscope was able to see a blurry array of individual plant cells within the green segments.
Ultimately, this exercise was a reminder that ecology exists all around us. After all, that random leaf sample that I picked up had so much complexity in terms of the veins and plant cells. This exercise also helped me appreciate the simple genius of the foldscope. With such an easy to assemble contraption, a whole different world of science is open to the average person. Not to mention, the medical implications of this technology are also astounding.