A Microscope With a Mission

A Microscope With a Mission

MindTech Design is a newly formed company that was created by employees here at Area 10 Labs with the mission to develop a line of technology products that will engage students of all ages and foster deep learning in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM). MindTech Design is a public-benefit corporation (B Corp), which means it is a for-profit company that is certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. In other words, a for-profit business with a non-profit heart.

MindTech Design’s first product is a portable, personal microscope. Through collaboration with InScieEd Out, a collaborative partnership committed to rebuilding preK-12 science education curricula for the 21st century, we discovered a need for a low-cost, high-fidelity microscopes in education.

 

 

InSciEd Out has developed a curriculum that centers around the study of how genetics, environment and other factors affect the development of zebrafish. Students observe embryonic development under a microscope to determine how temperature, pollution, ethanol and other chemicals impact the growth of the fish. Currently, students conduct experiments and make observations often sharing a handful of expensive microscopes in the classroom that range in price from $2,000 to $5,000.

The fear of damaging or breaking such expensive equipment often prohibits their use by students and educators. This fear can also have a negative impact on student engagement by having the fragility of the equipment being used always on the top of mind. Through observation and interviews, we found a direct correlation between the cost of equipment hampering student’s excitement for their classwork. We hope to change this.

Not only are we working to drive the production cost per microscope kit to under $100 USD, but also intend to equip every student to have their own microscope. Without sacrificing the quality of the microscope, we want to build it in a way that it can not only be used in the classroom, but at home, in the backyard, in a park, or in a pond.  

The microscope kit breaks down and can be stored in a lunchbox-sized case that also doubles as a stage for the microscope. Students may uncover a whole new universe that they may not have known existed before. This allows personal curiosity, exploration and discovery to drive learning.

As many schools are now issuing Apple iPads and Google Chromebooks, we decided to make the core of our portable kit a 1080P full HD WiFi digital microscope. The image viewing application that communicates with the microscope runs on Apple iOS (iPhones and iPads), or Android devices and PCs (through USB cable or over WiFi). Students can make measurements, take and save pictures or video of their observations that they can then use in research reports or simply share with friends.

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