Bart E. Vos, Emil Betz Blesa, and Timo Betz, Universities of Göttingen and Münster, both in Germany, have built a high-resolution microscope out of plastic building blocks for children and inexpensive, readily available lenses. They use the lenses of modern smartphone cameras, which cost about €4 each. The team showed that the magnification and resolution achieved are sufficient to resolve micrometer-sized objects. The resolution is close to the diffraction limit of light.
The scientists created instructions for building the microscope. They also prepared a step-by-step tutorial to guide people through the construction process whilst learning about the relevant optical characteristics of a microscope. In addition, they suggest a series of experiments covering different fields of natural sciences that can be conducted with household ingredients. For example, they suggest discovering the process of crystallization, to observe the effect of osmosis on plant cells, and to discover the motion of microswimmers.
They were able to show through interviews that children aged 9 to 13 had a significantly better understanding of microscopy after building and working with this LEGO® microscope. The children started to make their own adaptations, explore how magnification works, and discover the world of the micro-cosmos for themselves.
The researchers hope their modular microscope will be used in classrooms and homes around the world to excite and inspire children about science. It is important to them to show that scientific research does not have to be separate from everyday life and that it can be enlightening, educational, and fun.
- Bart E. Vos, Emil Betz Blesa, Timo Betz,
Designing a high-resolution, LEGO-based microscope for an educational setting,
The Biophysicist 2021.
- Instructions for building the microscope in several languages (English, German, Dutch, Spanish) free to access: github.com/tobetz/LegoMicroscope