2018: Year in Review

2018 was a year of spectacular growth for the Foldscope community and company.

As we reflect on the many workshops, connections made, and events of the past year, we are excited and grateful to share the stories of some of our favorite moments of 2018. As always, thanks to the passionate mentors, our dedicated partners, and curious community of explorers, who made these moments possible!

Favorite moments of 2018:



Exhibiting in SFMoMA

The beta version of Foldscope was featured in the show “Designed In California” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).  The show, featuring inventions from the TESLA charger to the famed Eames chair, offered a wide spectrum of design elements from California designers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Featured in a section called Design For Social Change, the Foldscope was the first item you saw as you entered the Show!  The show ran from Jan - May, 2018.  The Foldscope (latest version) was also offered for sale in the SFMOMA store.

Friends of Kayany and the Kayany Foundation!

In January we also received an update from one of the most inspirational communities that we have had the privilege to engage with, the Friends of Kayany and the Kayany Foundation. These nonprofit organizations support education for Syrian refugee children. Among many services, they help to build and run schools for children residing in Informal Tented Settlements (ITS) in Lebanon. This work provides children with the opportunity to learn in a clean, safe, and supportive environment, and works toward ensuring that Syrian refugees have the tools they need to rebuild.

As early as 2017, the Friends of Kayany have incorporated Foldscopes into their education programs to encourage higher learning in their classrooms. The Foldscope Team hopes to continue to support and develop on the work of these organizations. If you are interested in supporting these organizations, you can donate directly at the websites listed below, or contact us to donate foldscope kits to their network of schools! (Photo credit: Carol Kenner, President of Friends of Kayany). 



The Start of Somethings Big: DBT Workshop, Dehli, India

April 16-17 marked the dates for a one of a kind orientation workshop in Delhi, organized by India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT), and hosted at the International Centre For Genetic Engineering And Biotechnology (ICGEB). Over 445 educators from across India gathered to become students once again, participating in a massive two day workshop where they would learn how to assemble, use, and methods for implementing their Foldscopes!

It was a time filled with exciting and insightful questions about potential applications for the freshly folded tools. A teacher from Madurai plans a workshop for the prevention of dengue fever through mosquito identification…. While others contemplate monitoring water quality, plant biology, demonstrating the importance of hygiene, the list goes on!

At the end of each day Jim, Dr. Dinakar Salunke, and Prof. K. VijayRaghavan, listened & responded to questions and feedback from all the educators and students in attendance. As exceptional as our workshop was, these sessions felt like a particularly meaningful & motivating note to end things on. Excited reflection on what’s been achieved, and honest discussion on the work that still needs to be done. 

In April, we also visited Cornell University to engage with a special educational outreach program called ASSET, which stands for Advancing Secondary Science Education through Tetrahymena. This experience was fantastic for many reasons. To name a few, we were able to visit a generous collaborator, Donna Cassidy-Hanely of Cornell’s Veterinary Microbiology and Immunology department and support the ASSET program by training teachers hands-on for the entire afternoon! We were also joined by our dear friend and an absolute supe-user, Lakshminarayan Iyer and his brilliant daughter Vaishnavi! Laks has been a champion of Foldscope from the beginning, and if you visit his Microcosmos page you will see for yourself. This collaborative experience was an exciting stepping stone that can hopefully serve as a model for implementing Foldscope in science education programs.

For more information on ASSET, you can visit their website here!


In June, something happened unlike we had ever seen... Posts on our Microcosmos website skyrocketed! To our deep excitement, this increase shows no signs of stopping, as more and more posts appear on our website to this day.



Over the summer, the Foldscope team visited South America, visiting Peru, Argentina, and Brazil. This trip had been a long time coming, with partners around the world! Incredible thanks to the Moore Foundation Amazonia team for the connections and support that made it largely possible. In the end, the experience encompassed roughly a month of travel with countless outreach efforts, workshops, connections, and what felt like unlimited potential to be explored. We are beside ourselves with excitement to see how this budding community grows in 2019. The trip was chronicled in parts by our team members Rebecca Konte through Microcosmos posts and photography, and Alice Dai through the blog series The South America Diaries and photography.


The trip started off with a bang as we headed into the Peruvian Amazom first thing. There, we found ourselves surrounded by some of the world's most incredible biodiversity. We launched Foldscopes into local communities of the Madre de Dios region, where students were ecstatic to venture into the microscopic world & see their familiar environment in an entirely new way.

We are honored to work with ACEER, the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research, to help bring these tools to Peru, and incredible thanks are due to Carmen Chavez of ACEER for making this wonderful experience possible. Watch the workshop video here.
(Video credit: Jon Cox, Photo credits: Alice Dai).

We also visited UTEC, the University of Engineering and Technology, in Lima, Peru, where we held a workshop for graduate students interested in using Foldscope. To read more about this experience in a microcosmos post, click here!


Next, the team visited Argentina, where we connected with Alicia Bañuelos and her fantastic team, who created a project with the goal of bringing Foldscope into the the hands of every child in the San Luis district.... To say our experience with Alicia and her team was phenomenal would be an understatement! She truly is an example of when someone takes initiative, amazing things can happen.

Since this summer, Alicia’s initiatives continue to work toward their goal and they have even went on to win awards for their achievements!

They also produced a series of foldscope tutorial videos in spanish. If you want to follow her project more, check out their website.


Last but not least, the team visited the Brazil to explore multiple opportunities for collaboration, facilitated by The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation & their Andes-Amazon Initiative. We set out to build a community of Foldscope users across the Amazon region, and explore possible applications for the Foldscope that could address the challenges unique to this rainforest environment. Overall, we were simply astounded by our surrondings wherever we went, and by the hospitality and passion of everyone we met.

Here are links to Microcosmos posts on workshops in a classroom and fishing community, as well as some playful experiments on a speedboat ride along the Japurá river.



Finally, we ended the year on a special note—in place where we got our start!

Foldscope had a booth at the ASCB, the American Society for Cell Biology, annual meeting in San Diego. This moment was a particularly special because ASCB was one of the earliest settings in which Jim & Manu introduced their invention to the scientific community! We were bringing Foldscope back to the start in a sense, but this time, we had lots to share about how the community has scaled globally.

To describe this global growth, we presented a poster during ASCB’s poster session. Our poster was dotted with countless stories from across the community spectrum, trying to capture the diversity and breadth of our explorers.

It was a wonderful experience to connect with both familiar and new people and think about how individuals with a scientific background can become mentors to help shape and grow the global community in the coming years!

Looking forward

Many memorable moments come to mind when we think of 2018. So many moments that it is difficult to narrow them down, nonetheless capture their stories!

We hope that you continue to enjoy embarking on this journey with us, and as we welcome the new year, we grow more resolute in our belief that providing equitable participation in science is not only essential, but achievable.

-The Foldscope Team