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building microscopes in Ticino

We are currently doing a workshop in Vico Morcote, Ticono, during the yearly hacker’s camp, home-made labor research week, organised by the Swiss Mechatronic Art Society. While there is some massive soldering actions, noise-experiments and easy sunbathing and swimming, we have settled down with a small DIY microscopy workshop in the grapes pergola overlooking the lake of lugano.

During the hackteria workshop held at the Homemade Week Vico Morcote 2009, the participants were introduced into the microscopic world of the living, hacking webcams and builing usable microscope setups.

new_microscope_setup

Different samples were collected from the local environment, the lake of Lugano, soil from an old biological wastedump and a stack of hay.

Further improvements of the microscope setup developed during this week allowed the control of the focus by a servo, and lighting using a microcontroller (Arduino) and also using Pure Data to process the video data, which allows to do various image processing and visual art work. A simple interface was also made to be able to adjust the most important settings without using the laptop directly.

microcopes_in_tessin

A small hack to the optics of a standard webcam allows to create video data, with a magnification of around 100 to 400x (depending on the model and the setup) at a working distance of a few mm. The highest magnifications can be achieved by inverting (putting upside down) the lens. Addition of good lighting by the use of leds allows to create images using a bright-field method (shine through the stuff) or dark field method (shine from the side and look at the reflections and scattering).

Thanks to: Jordi Riegg, Christoph Haberer, Uwe Schueler, Alex



  1. […] Summary: Overall, I went through a lot of crummy ideas to get to some ok ones. Many of my best “discoveries” were simply stumbling upon the great work of others, like the Cellscope and Hackteria! Turning a USB webcam into a microscope is great for innovation in low cost labs. The next step is mobility – hooking one of these up to an iPhone, either through the USB port or just relying on the built in camera. Check out the Hackteria blogpost, here. […]

  2. […] hacked $10 webcams into microscopes, a la Hackteria.org at the bosslab + sprout. Yashas Shetty, Jason Bobe, Rich Pell, Myself, and others are […]


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