DBT - Foldscope Programme
Foldscope which is an ultra-affordable paper microscope is a part of the "Frugal science" movement which aims to make essential scientific tool affordable in the developing world to engage the masses on curiosity driven experiments. It is a portable, robust and versatile microscope made mostly out of paper (water-proof) that can magnify 140x and has 1.9 μm resolution without the bulkiness and expense of a conventional research microscope. The uniqueness of the Foldscope lies in the fact that unlike conventional microscopes found in science labs, it is portable and has the ability to project an image on any surface, allowing a larger group of people to look at an image simultaneously.
Foldscope was invented by an Indian researcher Dr. Manu Prakash and his student Dr. Jim Cybulski at Prakash Lab, Stanford University, USA. The Prakash Lab invented Foldscope which is a new approach for mass manufacturing of optical microscope that is printed-and-folded from a single flat sheet of paper, akin to origami and can enable accessibility to microscopy in field and resource constrained settings at a global scale. Prakash Lab has incorporated a company Foldscope Instruments Inc., USA, for manufacturing of Foldscope.
The Foldscope has been brought to India after the signing of a Statement of Intent between the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India and Prakash Lab (Stanford University), USA in the presence of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi during his visit to USA for the India-US Startup Konnect event at Silicon Valley on 27th September 2015.
Since then, DBT in partnership with Foldscope Instruments Inc. and Prakash Lab (Stanford University) has reached out to school students, teachers, scientists/researchers & masses interested in science exploration across India by training them in use of Foldscope to popularize science and trigger excitement in it.
DBT has established a Foldscope Secretariat at Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL), a company promoted by DBT and the All India Financial Institutions for commercialization of biotechnologies.
BCIL has organized a number of workshops and distributed Foldscopes to the resource constraint schools and colleges across the country including north eastern region of India, on behalf of DBT. During the year 2019, six foldscope workshops covering 53 aspirational districts in 12 states, trained 300 teachers and more than 2000 students on use of foldscope as an educational tool. During the hands on workshops, the teachers and students were trained on use of foldscope to visualize unicellular and multi cellular cells like bacteria, fungus, protozoans, plant cells, animal cells, arthropods and exopolymeric substances. These workshops provided a platform to the students & teachers to use Foldscopes as microscopic tool for their practicals, detection of samples, etc. this approach would strengthen the scientific temperament of the students to pursue science as a career
So far, DBT has supported more than 400 schools and colleges across the country by training the teachers/faculty to use foldscope and provided micro grant to pursue their research activities using foldscope. The use of foldscope among young students has encouraged them towards science exploration and strengthening their scientific temperament. The following map depicts number of schools and colleges in every state selected under Foldscope outreach programme.
The selected schools/colleges have organized 2020 workshops and trained 1,17,573 students besides creating 5280 trainers. The positive impact of this exercise in terms of fuelling the scientific temperament can be assessed from the fact that within a short period of one year, more than 22,598 pictures and videos taken by students & teachers while observing the samples have been reported to DBT.