Play A Game With Microbes Using A Microscope On Your Phone
An open-source device developed at Stanford University turns microbiology into an interactive and educational tool
Stanford bioengineer has developed a microscope for mobile that provides a new way of learning about and interacting with microbes. The 3D-printed, open-source LudusScope is ideal for educational settings: it enables kids to observe and play games with tiny light-seeking microbes called Euglena.
“Many subject areas like engineering or programming have neat toys that get kids into it, but microbiology does not have that to the same degree. The initial idea for this project was to play games with living cells on your phone. And then it developed much beyond that to enable self-driven inquiry, measurement and building your own instrument.”
The LudusScope features a platform for the microscope slide where the Euglena move around. The user can activate four surrounding LEDs with a joystick to change the direction that the microbes swim. A phone holder above the platform positions the mobile camera over a microscope eyepiece to display the microbes below. Each of these elements can be built by youngsters using available parts.
The LudusScope games are overlaid on the image of the microbes. There is a Pac-Man-style game with a maze of white dots which tracks one of the Euglena, then uses the LEDs to control the direction it swims and guide it through the maze. There is also a soccer game that awards points for guiding Euglena through the goal posts.
Other apps provide microscope scale-bars, real-time displays of swimming speed, or zoomed-in views of individual microbes, enabling the user to collect data on Euglena behavior, swimming speed, and natural biological variability. Riedel-Kruse continues to update the LudusScope with input from teachers and students, and has received a seed grant to collaborate with an educational game company with a kit expected to be available in a year or so. You can check out the LudusScope in the video below: