Microscopes are truly my FAVORITE scientific instrument and I personally believe that no other tool gets students more excited about science.  I love sharing tips, techniques, and lessons with teachers so that they can use microscopy with their students. Many times this means looking for alternatives to the traditional compound light or stereo microscopes, such as the one I’ll be discussing in this post, the uHandy Mobile Microscope Teacher Kit.

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I had a lot of fun with this mobile microscope and I felt that the designers really took into account not only ease of use, but also practicality by adding magnets to hold microscope components together and lenses that held firmly in place.  This is huge for me, because I’ve tried other brands that hook up to your mobile devices and the lenses are always slipping, making you lose your specimen, and it’s just frustrating.

The Teacher Kit

Here’s a quick overview of what comes in the uHandy Mobile Microscope Teacher’s Kit.  I feel the best way to use this is the teacher using a tablet that is hooked up as a second camera so images can be shared on smartboards or when teaching remotely.  The kit is packaged so all components are labeled clearly and comes with the following:

  • Lo-Mag Set: Lo-Mag Lens (wih Mini Petri Dish), Lo-Mag Stage
  • Hi-Mag Set: Hi-Mag Lens, Light Stage, Slide Holder, Circular Slide
  • USB Light
  • Petri dish (35mm & 60mm each)
  • Dropper
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  • Storage Box for MicroLab
  • Sample Flat & Bubble Stickers (90 pieces of Flat & 90 pieces of Bubble)
  • Sample Flat Stickers (180 pieces)
  • Sample Hubs (120 pieces)
  • Sample Collecting Album
  • 3 original educational resources (samples included)
  • Prepared Slides (3 pieces)
  • Blank Slides (2 pieces)
  • Stand for Tablet or Smartphone

 

Let’s get started with the low-magnification lens!

Okay, when I tell you that you can start looking at magnified objects right away, I mean it!  To get started all I needed was to open my camera app and attach the low-magnification lens – check out this quick video:

The one component that I absolutely love about this low-magnification lens is the mini petri dish that’s attached to it.  This not only protects your camera, but allows you to view irregular objects and even liquid samples such as pond water and chemical reactions!  Don’t worry, I’m going to show you more of that later in the post.

Here are images of things I magnified within seconds of attaching the camera – the clarity is super impressive!

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Nylon shirt

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Moth wing scales

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Feather barbs

Two notes I want to add for best results:

  1. The rear camera has better resolution, so if possible use that lens.  However, use the front camera when using liquids in the petri dish.
  2. If you’re using a device that has multiple rear cameras, shift your lens until your screen shows the white field-of view circle.

Using the High Magnification Lens

Switching over to the high mag lens, I was equally impressed with the ease of use.  I used the high mag lens with an iPad pro, and the cup of the lens fit beautifully around the back camera, so there was no guessing game in trying to place it.

The kit came with two blank slides and three prepared slides: a mosquito wing, a cross section of a pine needle, and a section of a vicia faba leaf.  I chose to look at the mosquito wing using the light stage and slide holder.  The smart design of this set up is that the light does not turn on until the slide holder is in place.  Then, when you place the stage up to the magnifying lens, a magnet helps hold in place, but still allows you to shift the stage in order to locate the specimen or zoom in on the specimen.  Here’s a short video showing this:

Making My Own Slide Samples

This kit comes with several sample stickers, so depending on your specimen, you can choose to use the flat stickers or the bubble stickers.  If you decide you want to use the same sample for several classes, you are able to save your sample using the sample hub stickers.  Here’s an image of all the items:

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The first sample I created was a pollen sample using the circular slide and a flat sticker.  One thing to note here is that when using the circular slide is that you add specimen stickers to the side with magnets facing up.

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I made another prepared slide with some salt crystals and here’s how it turned out:

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Let’s say I loved a certain specimen and wanted to show it to several classes – I could save it by using a sample hub sticker from the kit to my lesson plans, then attach my sample sticker to the hub until I needed it.

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Using the Mini Petri Dish and Large Petri Dish

The attached mini petri dish feature of the uHandy mobile microscope is by far my favorite.  When the cover is on, that is the perfect focal length to have your specimen from the camera.  So, if I want to show something more abstract, say a red velvet ant to my class, then I can take the cover off, and place the sections of the ant inside the dish.  Here you can see images of the eyes, hair, and even the foot of the ant!

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Red velvet ant

 

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Feet and claws of red velvet ant

I was really having fun with this microscope so I tried out some pyrite and a bluebird feather.

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Pyrite sample

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Virginia bluebird feather

 

Now, let’s talk reactions.  When we teach students about chemical reactions, we tell them one way to know if a chemical reaction is taking place is if gas is produced.  Here I added a dusting of baking powder in the larger petri dish that comes in the kit and sat it on top of the low mag lens.  I added one drop of vinegar and captured this video – do you think students would be able to see gas being produced?  Absolutely…it’s so relaxing to watch as well!

 

I also thought it would also be fun to show the amazing water-absorbing properties of the crystal polymers found in diapers, so I collected some super absorbent crystals in the petri dish, placed it over the low mag lens and continued adding drops of water as I recorded this video!  Take a look:

My Overall Recommendation

I thoroughly enjoyed using the uHandy mobile microscope and will continue to do so.  I plan on adding the kit to my Outdoor Explorer pack because I’m able to use this mobile microscope with my iPad.  I have not been able to do this with another pocket microscope, so I love the opportunity it gives me to show an entirely different world in nature to students.   As you could also see, I was able to easily look at a variety of specimens with ease and the components were designed so that microscopy would be successful, whether a beginner or novice. The clarity of the magnified images was impressive when using both lenses.  One thing I noticed is that the low mag lens has a plastic petri dish, so when putting specimens on it, there was a little static cling, so I needed to use a microfiber cloth to clean in between because I started noticing tiny threads, dust, and residue. I had to clean off a lot of moth wing scales that clung to the lens!

A couple of things to note is that when zooming in, sometimes I lost the quality of crispness on the magnified object, so it’ s important to note that the lo-mag lens is optimized for magnification around 10~120x and the hi-mag lens is optimized for 30x~360x. The more I practiced with the microscope, I got better at finding the best quality of image with the help of the exposure/focus screen feature on the uHandy app.  Another thing is that this microscope is not set up to adjust the depth of a field, so if looking at a sample, for example, pond water, you would have to use a very small drop and hope that organisms moved close by the camera.  The kit comes with a stand for both a smartphone and a tablet, but the tablet has to be around 10 inches – I have the 12 inch iPad pro, and the stand was a touch too small.

Overall, I think the uHandy Mobile Microscope Teacher Kit should be in every science classroom.  Now that technology allows us to easily share our screens, this microscope would be such a powerful tool to help teach concepts to students who are visual learners.  With the setup being so easy, you could share in seconds, adding a huge impact to your science lessons.

Enjoy!

Erica

The product in this article was part of an exchange for a review. I only recommend products and services that I have personally used or have thoroughly researched.