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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

REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Lakeridge High teachers Sarah Mock and Roger Oakes introduced their students to Novagrade digiscoping adapters. So did colleague Sarah Alt Price, who is not pictured.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 you’d 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.

“That’s 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.REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Lakeridge teacher Roger Oakes makes a few adjustments to a digiscoping adapter attached to a microscope to get a proper view of a slide of cartilage cells.

“You’re essentially bringing beauty close up to people,” says Doug Porter, CEO and founder of designPORT. “What’s 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.REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - A cell phone displays an up-close view of a microscope slide.

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 didn’t 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.REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Lakeridge teacher Sarah Mock showcases a digiscoping adapter prototype.

“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. “It’s way easier to learn if you can actually see what you’re looking at. And if multiple students can see what they’re looking at, this device could really help with student learning. For me, that was a rewarding experience. … It’s 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.REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - At designPORT, design engineer Ken Courian (from left), CEO/founder Doug Porter and former intern Reid Dorrance demonstrate how to project a slide on a microscope onto a large screen using a digiscoping adapter. The sea anemone is a screen saver, and the image overlaying it is what is on the microscope slide.

“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 wasn’t working well, Porter says, and it was frustrating. That’s 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.

“We’ve 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 that’s right in their pockets.”SUBMITTED PHOTO - An insect wing on the slide of a microscope is projected onto a large screen using a digiscoping adapter and a smartphone. The sea anemone is a screen saver.
By Jillian Daley
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For more information about designPORT, visit www.designportinc.com or www.novagrade.com, call 503-510-7560 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..