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MarineQuest Selected to Beta Test New “Field” Microscope

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

MarineQuest Selected to Beta Test New Field Microscope

MarineQuest has been selected to beta test an internationally acclaimed new product called the Foldscope, an inexpensive, Origami like print-and-fold microscope. The Foldscope is expected to enhance science education and to revolutionize healthcare in developing countries.

“This summer, K-12 students participating in MarineQuest summer programs at UNCW will take part in the early field testing of a product that is likely to have a significant global impact,” said Sue Kezios, director of UNCW’s Youth Programs. “It’s an amazing opportunity for our students. Foldscope will help MarineQuest reinforce the message that every person, no matter how young, has a responsibility for the health of the ocean. We also will be reaching out across campus to encourage other groups to investigate health related issues with the Foldscopes.”

The Foldscope was designed by Manu Prakash, assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University. The beta test, called the “Ten Thousand Microscopes Project,” is an initiative of the Prakash Lab at Stanford with support from the Moore Foundation. MarineQuest campers will join citizen scientists from 130 countries as participants in the large-scale science project.

The goal of the beta test is to explore the microscopic world broadly and answer curiosity driven questions of microcomos. The Prakash Lab is providing Foldscope kits to select participants free of charge. In turn, participants agree to conduct and document experiments in a way that could be replicated by anyone.  Prakash hopes to assemble a wide range of examples of creative uses of the microscope, collected from “the scientists, teachers, tinkerers, thinkers, hackers and kids” who participate from around the world.

Researchers at Prakash Lab are focused on democratizing science by developing scientific tools that can scale up to match problems in global health and science education. The Foldscope can magnify objects over 2,000 times, yet it costs less than a dollar in parts, can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper and is small enough to fit in a pocket.

The lab’s vision for the product is to impact global health “by developing disease specific instruments that are designed for diagnostics, are extremely robust and extremely easy to use by health workers.” They also hope the Foldscope will impact science education “by making true a dream that every kid in the world should carry around a microscope.” 

Prakash received a “Brilliant 10” award from Popular Science Magazine in 2014 for developing this low-cost alternative to high-tech research equipment and bringing science to the masses. He was also named a visionary by MIT Technology Review and included on their 2014 list of “35 Innovators Under 35.”

Kezios learned about Prakash, the Foldscope and the Ten Thousand Microscopes Project through her work with Biomimicry. When applications opened for the Foldscope beta test last March she immediately applied for participation in the group/school category.

“MarineQuest qualified for the trials based on its multi-year success working with K-12 students to collect field data for the National Phytoplankton Monitoring Network. Our application was based on a desire for our students to connect with other young people from around the globe who were investigating water-based environmental health issues. MarineQuest also qualified based on the number of students it is able to put in the field each summer,” Kezios said.

MarineQuest, which has been offered by UNCW Youth Programs for 35 years, will host more than 1,250 participants in its 2015 summer programs.

A website has been established for the Ten Thousand Microscopes Project so participants can share ideas, experiments and research results with the broader community. For more information, visit http://microcosmos.foldscope.com.

For information on the origins of the Foldscope, see TED talk with Manu Prakash:


For additional information, visit

Article in Scope, published by Stanford Magazine, March 2014:


National Institutes of Health Director’s Blog June 2014:


MarineQuest Summer Camps

Registration for 2015 MarineQuest Summer Camps is now open. For information or to register, visit www.uncw.edu/youth