Exo Labs Launches Kickstarter to Get Microscope Cameras to Classrooms

This article is cross-posted from edtechtimes.com, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.


Drosophila head with annotations and measurements, taken with Focus Microscope Camera™ and displayed on Focus App

Last month, EdTech Times introduced Exo Labs’ iPad-connected Focus Microscope Camera.  Today, Exo Labs has launched a Kickstarter effort, with the goal of raising $29,000 in order to get their new Focus Microscope Camera into classrooms.

The funding will enable Exo Labs to place 40 Focus Cameras in classrooms at no cost to the schools.  In exchange, Exo Labs will get valuable feedback on performance and usability, as well as guidance on the types of features and functionality that would be most useful for their customers.

With US students falling behind in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Exo Labs hopes backers will see the Focus Camera as a the right technology at the right time.  The Focus Camera sits at the intersection of STEM and iPad adoption by offering a solution for teachers looking for new and exciting ways to engage and inspire students.   It breathes new life into the compound and stereo microscopes that schools already own, and can dramatically improve the learning experience. Now students can collaborate and share images and use these powerful features to explore the unseen world.  Teachers are better able to convey information and confirm students aren’t confusing an eyelash for a nematode.

We had the chance to speak with co-founder and CTO Jeff Stewart to ask him how Exo Labs’ first product got its start.  He describes the microscopy experience as essentially being the same since 1600s, and yet teachers are still finding the kids spending hours looking at air bubbles.  “The Focus Microscope Camera’s direct connection to the iPad allows for a very collaborative and cooperative experience that is all about sharing,” says Stewart.  “The goal is to ‘ignite curiosity’ in the next generation of scientists.”

Stewart recalled a recent interaction with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center‘s Science Education Partnership.  One researcher took the Focus Camera to her private lab and used it on their expensive fluoroscopy microscope.  To her surprise, she was able to get images from the Focus that were nearly comparable to their high-end imaging tool, with much greater convenience.


The Focus Microscope Camera™ from Exo Labs links any microscope to an iPad

“What we’re finding is that our intial target in education is seeping into research,” said Stewart.  “Just think, the same product for 7th grade scientists can be used in a top research lab, like a stack, a progression. If you get them into science early, they may eventually be a researcher.  But the key is engaging kids.  You don’t have to be a scientist to think like one, and if we can help drive that lesson home — the value and discipline of a scientific approach can be applied by students in a wide variety of situations and careers, then we’re helping kids win.  And that’s exciting.”

“We can’t wait to see what students will do with these cameras,” said Stewart.  “We got a great reception at the recent NSTA show in San Antonio, and heard a lot of enthusiasm from key stakeholders. We’ve been doing a lot of listening in our development process and we see our Kickstarter effort as a way to further extend that by working closely with schools interested in driving STEM education forward.  We want their input to steer us in the direction that will help us inspire students.”

The Kickstarter initiative hopes to grant cameras out into schools that have a high mix of low-income students.  Stewart hopes that this will also help teachers out with “the E part of STEM,” and that Exo Labs can help share their engineering process with students.  “By having a dialog with the classroom about our product development – we can help model a relationship for organizations to get involved in classrooms,” says Stewart.  “We do [the engineering process] like we breathe, but it is a process that can be taught and learned.”

Find Exo Labs’ Kickstarter at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/exolabs/the-focus-microscope-camera