The Missouri University of Science & Technology, Rolla, is rethinking how lab classes are taught. One part of the effort this fall will make it possible for students to earn extra credit for using their smartphone to build their own microscope.
Students in one section of General Biology will be able to build the microscope from a collection of carriage bolts, nuts, wing nuts, plywood, Plexiglas, laser-pointer lenses, and LED click lights from keychain flashlights. The course instructor plans to compile all the components into a kit, which will be sold at the university bookstore.
Once completed, the do-it-yourself microscope will be able to magnify samples up to 175 times with a single laser-pointer lens, according to Daniel Miller, who created the prototype that was used in a lab last spring. Extra credit was offered to the 50 students in that class, with 15 building the microscope.
“They loved it,” Miller said. “They get to take it home and can use it to look at specimens whenever they want.”
The university hopes to create a how-to manual for teaching lab courses from its Transforming Instructional Labs project. Other labs involved in the project are cell biology, general chemistry, introductory physics, microbiology, the mechanics and materials laboratory, and various labs in nuclear engineering, with instructors planning to develop learning kits for each.
“We’re working with different lab courses on campus that use blended or online learning and plan to come up with an instruction model that could be reproduced anywhere,” said Angela Hammons, manager of instruction technology services at Missouri S&T.