With school systems strapped for cash in the US and our kid’s knowledge of science and technology (other than iPod use and computer games) waning leading to fewer people entering science and engineering, perhaps we could start creating low cost ways of teaching science. Make it fun again. As the article points out, one reason for creating this microscope was to get away from boring rote memorization. On the other hand, with chemistry sets going the way of getting through airports fast, someone would probably sue for getting a bamboo sliver.

Microscopes made from bamboo bring biology into focus

In a remote village in eastern India, dozens of underprivileged children are for the first time marveling at the elaborate details of flower petals with the help of a microscope—made out of bamboo.

Fitted with a times20 lens, the light, compact and ecofriendly microscope is proving a boon for dozens of cash-strapped schools, granting students firsthand access to an otherwise unaffordable scientific tool.

Priced at 150 rupees (roughly $4), the microscope is just one of the educational tools created by Jodo Gyan, literally translated as ‘linking knowledge’. Other tools include mathematical card and board games and sticky geometric shapes in a variety of colors. The 30-member group has also led more than 700 teacher-training workshops and runs an alternative primary school that enrolls 54 underprivileged students.

  1. Jack sparrow says:

    In a village with no modern comodites (electricity and internet)….this is more effective in teaching kids than the damn $200 OLPC !!!!

  2. billabong says:

    Maybe put this folks on developing a 10.00 laptop. A pad, a pencil and 9.90 for food.

  3. rasco says:

    There’ll be no interest in science and engineering in the US until the pay is better. Why bust your ass in school perusing a difficult science degree when you can major in business and make 2X as much after you graduate?

    I didn’t begin making good money with my science degree until I made the move to the administrative side of my industry.

    Only those with a passion for science will major in science. I don’t know yet how I’ll advise my kid when he starts college; I know he’s more than smart enough to major in anything he likes, but is it worth it when the business world holds no value for the scientists?

  4. RTaylor says:

    Many of the scientist I’ve known #3, never put a great deal of value on personal wealth. Their work was their life, many times wreaking their personal lives. They worried more about getting published than portfolios.

  5. MikeN says:

    That lens holder isn’t made out of bamboo.

  6. BubbaRay says:

    What a shame physics won’t allow scalability in the opposite direction. Even a very small usable (not dept. store junk) refractor (say 100mm) will run about $500, mainly due to the optics. And bamboo isn’t strong enough to make a practical 4″ Newtonian scope with a Dobsonian mount.

    I do remember a company (Criterion) who very successfully made reflectors from phenolic coated cardboard (concrete mold) tubing. Very strong and extremely light weight.

    But the bamboo microscope is a work of genius.

  7. JimR says:

    rasco, what type of science jobs are you referring to? The median salary for a level 1 Physicist is $50 thousand. In a best case, starting salary for a PHD in stem cell research (private sector) is $70-$90 thousand. Are those figures considered unworthy?

  8. rasco says:

    #4 RTaylor,

    I’m not talking about personal wealth; I’m talking about paying the bills and maybe being able to afford a house.

    Sure PhDs and the like can be very passionate about their work and make great sacrifices (both monetarily and personally), but the average BS coming out of school to earn 20 – 30k is only willing to make that type of sacrifice for so long.

    I’ve been working in several different facets of the science industry for 15 years now and I’ve seen it time and time again; so many brilliant minds giving up because they can’t support their families. I’ve seen many people just quit and look for other work (I’ve seen scientists become truck drivers and construction workers for example).

    I made more money working three nights a week as a waiter than I did at my first job out of college.

    Sure you can go into sales or something else to make more money, but many attempt to hang in there because they feel they’re doing something noble and significant.

    I’m talking about all the BS level scientists who will soon be out of work when their lab jobs are outsourced to Asia.

    Big business holds little value for scientist and will take their research work where the cost is lowest.

  9. Jamie says:

    Speaking of someone who has a science degree (and ended up working as a computer geek instead – it’s about the money) – and still indulges in science as a “hobby”, I’d have to say the bamboo microscope is a really neat idea! Bravo to those who thought it up.

    As an aside – I mourn the slow demise of the chemistry set. My first one was awesome, but that was about 25 years or more ago.

  10. Jamie says:

    “I’ve been working in several different facets of the science industry for 15 years now and I’ve seen it time and time again; so many brilliant minds giving up because they can’t support their families. I’ve seen many people just quit and look for other work (I’ve seen scientists become truck drivers and construction workers for example).”

    Almost any “science” or “academic” job tends to be this way, doesn’t it? You become a teacher? Scientist? Therapist? Archaeologist? Only have a BS? You get crap pay, and sometimes a crap job.
    You get more with additional degrees. Unless you get in with a well-funded place that seriously MAKES money, you’re not likely to make a LOT of money, either. I’ve known a lot of people in those fields. They either move where the more plush jobs are, live where cost of living is lower, make do with what they get until they get better degrees, or go into another field. I don’t see how that’s going to change any time soon.

  11. ECA says:

    Have ANY of you seen the prices of materials to schools?
    A bunch of learning tools to explain OLD math principles costs $50, for a bunch of Mathematical shapes. A bunch of Heavy duty Cardboard shapes that would cost you $1-2, IF you had the TIME to make them yourself.
    A microscope starts at $100-200, for lenses in a METAL frame…

    10, MOSt places want 1 person with a MAJOR degree and the REST are Peons… The job market ISNT that great for ANY of them.

    MOST of science is OLD ideas that are being proven, and shown, and taught. THINK about what it took LONG ago, and how much the materials cost then, or were MADE by the person.
    WHY do you need a $100 Metal frame for a Microscope.
    I also want to point out 1 interesting point.
    For those of you wearing Standard glasses, with nothing special about them…PLASTIC lenses cost about $2 EACH. Frames(even the MOST expensive) cost about $10-15…THE REST is PROFIT, PURE PROFIT. Until this country can get the COSTS down, and BACk to a reasonable level, it will cut into the budget of EVERY person, and every business, and Every school and hospital.

  12. Angel H. Wong says:

    How long until Corning sends a small army of lawyers to break all these microscopes?

  13. Glenn E says:

    I grew up in america. But as a student of the 1960s era, I had an abacus and a slide rule. The first was also made from bamboo and wood, from some foreign land. And the slide rule was all plastic. Later in high school, I got a circular slide rule. Made by Sama & Etani, Inc. Which I rarely used. But I’ve kept around since its shape is so compact. I’m looking at it right now. If my computer, or any of my hand calculators break down, I’ll be cover for doing more than simple multiplication and division. BTW, I always thought the abacus was overly complicated, compared to some other manual adding and subtracting devices. Why don’t they make any of those anymore? One would come in handy at the grocery store. Anyway, I think students in all countries (even the US) should start out with the simple manual math and science tools, like this Bamboo microscope. Rather than only offering the relatively higher priced Tasco or whatever model, to kids of “developed” nations. I had one of those pricey things myself, and it rarely worked. The optics was very poor. In any case, it was probably priced out range of most “developing” nations’ students. Which is unnecessarily exploitive of the world’s children, in general.

  14. Glenn E says:

    You know, I just occured to me. If they start teaching children in 3rd world countries (or even “cash straped american towns), about microbiology and such. They many grow up expecting and demanding clean water. And proper waste disposal. And then what will happen? Public unrest and revolts! Best to keep them all as ignorant as possible, or they’ll start expecting better from their respective countries’ governments. And we can’t have any of that, now can we?!

  15. neha says:

    i read ur article on bamboo microscope. it is a good instrument especially for children and that too at such a reasonable rates.but i felt bad that u haven’t mentioned the name of the designer of the bamboo microscope? because i know him and he has said its cost is not more than 50-60 Rupees.


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