A shared focus
Lakeridge science students pilot prototypes of a device that makes it easier for entire classes to look at magnified microscopic images at the same time
Remember peering into a microscope in high school, looking for whatever speck it was that your science teacher was trying to describe, using cryptic terms youd only begun to grasp?
Now, technology created by a Wilsonville company has made it possible for everyone in a class to look at the same thing at the same time an innovation that drew rave reviews during a pilot project last fall in the science wing at Lakeridge High School.
The students loved it; they lit up, says Sarah Mock, one of three Lakeridge science teachers who helped test prototypes of the new Novagrade digiscoping adapter.
Mock said one student was so excited about the device that she deleted her personal photos from her phone to free up enough room for time-lapse photos of slides on a microscope.
Thats pretty exciting for a high school student to want pictures of salt crystals more than (pictures of) their friends, Mock said.
DesignPORT, a Wilsonville product development and engineering company, began work two years ago on what would become the first universal digiscoping adapter. The product locks a smartphone or other electronic device in place so that it can clearly display the view seen through optical devices such as binoculars, a spotting scope or a microscope.
Youre essentially bringing beauty close up to people, says Doug Porter, CEO and founder of designPORT. Whats more fun than that?
The company now has an entire line of digiscoping adapters called Novagrade, including one for tablets and one for digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. By marrying electronic and optical devices, the adapters make close-up photos of distant or tiny objects possible and offer unique opportunities for videography and time-lapse photography.
The Novagrade line also includes an adapter that connects any smartphone, in or outside of its case, to an optical device, which is the one Lakeridge High School teachers and students helped test in the pilot project. More than 300 Lakeridge students participated in science classes taught by Mock, Sarah Alt Price and Roger Oakes.
The teachers got to keep the Novagrade adapter prototypes they tested, which are being sold for $149. That may seem steep, but Porter points out that a 1200-millimeter lens costs $180,000 and the Novagrade adapters can help produce similar close-up shots.
The prototypes came to Lakeridge because of Reid Dorrance, a Pacer who graduated in 2013.
Dorrance, currently a Gonzaga University junior, served as a designPORT intern last summer. When Porter asked him to look at eye doctors as a possible market for the device, Dorrance says he didnt find a need there but he did see one in schools. So he took a Novagrade adapter to Lakeridge and showed it to his former physics teacher, Matthew Price.
Price says he figured Lakeridge's Earth sciences and biology teachers would be staring into microscopes more than he would, so he told Dorrance to speak with his wife, Alt Price, and her fellow teachers, Mock and Oakes.
It just expands the potential of the microscope, Oakes says, because it allows multiple kids to be able to use one microscope.
Although Dorrance, who is studying engineering, was in school himself this fall, another representative from designPORT visited schools to demonstrate how to use the digiscoping adapter.
It really helps for visual people, and I definitely fall into that category, Dorrance says. Its way easier to learn if you can actually see what youre looking at. And if multiple students can see what theyre looking at, this device could really help with student learning. For me, that was a rewarding experience. Its rewarding to give something to the school.
Classroom use is a far cry from what Porter, a hunter, originally envisioned for the adapter. The idea arose in fall 2013 when he was elk hunting with a friend in Utah.
We had a spotting scope out, and we were using it to look at different hills, trying to find animals, Porter says. We saw a very large moose quite a distance away and tried to hold a phone camera up to the spotting scope to get a picture of it.
It wasnt working well, Porter says, and it was frustrating. Thats when the idea for an adapter to snap a smartphone in place on a spotting scope or binoculars came to him. The technology turned out to have a broader use than he had imagined, including its potential for microscopes in school science labs.
Weve very optimistic, Porter says, that this is going to be a great thing for high school science labs to be able to use the technology thats right in their pockets.
By Jillian Daley
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