Explore the microscopic world around you, with the foldscope

Rafikh Shaikh and Radha Gopalan in i wonder… webinar discuss the features that make the foldscope — a small, easy-to-use microscope — particularly well-suited for exercises aimed at encouraging children to explore their immediate surroundings.


Looking at things around us through a microscope can reveal a whole new world. It can change our perspective about a leaf or a piece of rock or a puddle of muddy water. 

Often microscopes are bulky and expensive. Now imagine a small, easy-to-use microscope that one could carry around in their pockets. 

The foldscope is a really simple, inexpensive, but powerful microscope. It was designed by Manu Prakash (a professor at Stanford University, USA) and Jim Cybulski (his PhD student at the time). Unlike conventional microscopes, the Foldscope:

  • is constructed with paper, magnets, and glass. This makes it small enough to fit into a pocket, sturdy enough for easy and rough use by school and college students, and handy enough to not need electricity or any additional resource. This makes it ideal for observations on the go.
  • is inexpensive, costing around Rs. 350/​piece in the Indian market.
  • has a magnification of 140x (which means that the size of the image we see is 140 times the actual size of the object we are looking at) and a resolution of 2 microns (which means that we can use it to discern features as small as 0.002 mm).
  • can be attached to a smartphone to take photos and videos of magnified objects, and can be used to project magnified images on a surface with just a bright light.

These features make the foldscope particularly well-suited for exercises aimed at encouraging children to explore their immediate surroundings. 

What things could be observed? What questions would emerge? What can one learn?

Join us in exploring these questions with Rafikh Shaikh and Radha Gopalan.

Rafikh Rashid Shaikh is passionate about understanding how children learn. He is a senior research coordinator at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a doctoral student at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE), Mumbai, India. He is also a recipient of the Foldscope Fellowship for his science popularisation work. 

Rafikh can be contacted at rafikh.​sk@​gmail.​com

The discussion is in English and Hindi.

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Know five reasons why physicists like microscopes here.