The Power of USB Microscopes

A few summers ago I was asked to teach at a summer camp for young gifted and talented students. The class I was teaching was CSI, so the students got to play with all sorts of things like evidence and special equipment. I had almost everything I needed to teach the class except a microscope.

I was working with a budget so I knew that I couldn't just go out and get a $1000 school microscope that I was used to having. So in a crunch I went to a local toy store and bought a $70 Digital Blue USB microscope and boy was I shocked when I started to use it.

First off, USB microscopes are way cooler for students to use than those regular laboratory-type ones. This one was light and plastic, with see-through parts so you could see all the insides of the microscope.

Next, the software that runs the microscope is the best part about it. You can turn on the top or bottom light, record video or just take a photo. Try doing that with a regular school microscope.

You can even pop the microscope off the stand and use it on a person's head to check for lice!

I used these features in my CSI class; students had to find certain parts of key evidence and then take a photo and email me a copy of the photo. For example, they had to match dirt found on a victim to six different dirt samples. This little $70 microscope did the job.

The lesson that I learned from this is that school technology does not have to be expensive to be good. It is not always the rule as you get what you pay for. Sometimes the best solutions to a school technology problem can be the cheapest.