Take a closer look

January 10th 2022

Take a closer look

Social media! Like it or loath it? There’s no doubt it is part of our present culture, and despite all the negative media hype and the minority of abusive users it is a well-used useful resource.

The Ullapool Feel Good Festival ran from November 29th to December 5th 2021. One part of that week of events was a couple of ‘come and try it’ digital microscope sessions in the Library and Lochbroom Leisure Centre, both Ullapool.

I only picked up on these microscope sessions thanks to a post on Facebook by the Aberdeen Science Centre (ASC). So, I went along to the Lochbroom Leisure Centre’s session to satisfy my curiosity.

Fiona Mackenzie from ASC was there and she explained her role in Community Outreach to the Highlands and Islands which aims to ‘Inspire a lifetime with Science and increase the Science Capital of communities –It revolves around the STEM subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. ASC’s strap line is Unleash the Power of Curiosity which, Fiona admits she has a lot of fun with! Here’s a link to a short two-minute video on YouTube that will give you more information. “What is Science Capital?”

I’m pretty sure at 60+ I wasn’t one of the target audience! Anyway, wearing my Assynt Field Club hat I was able to borrow one of ASC’s digital microscope packs. The pack contained everything needed to take a closer look at the microscopic world that surrounds us.

There was the digital microscope which was complete with built in LED lights, a small laptop with all the software already installed, instructions on how to use it all and some leaflets to help fire the imagination.

After a day or so of getting competent enough in using it I wanted the microscope! My letter had already gone to Santa so it was too late to ask for one. The version being loaned out in the packs seems to be less than £20* all you then need to do is install the free software on your own laptop or tablet or phone. (I/the Field Club are not endorsing this specific microscope, but here is a general search term so you can have a look USB Digital Microscope JS-EU 1000x)

You can save what you see as photographs or videos on your device at the click of a button. Simples!

I’ve added a few images here to show the microscope in use, and some of the results. I enjoy photographing fungi hence the carrot and orange, both kept so they would go mouldy, honest.

If you would like to borrow one of these packs then Fiona would be delighted to hear from you. She can be contacted by email Fiona.MacKenzie@asc.scot.

Want more science stuff then ASC also have a quarterly local radio podcast. You can listen here Stream Aberdeen Science Centre. The next broadcast ‘Hydrogen in the Highlands’ will be on Two Lochs Radio on Wednesday 19th January at 9pm. After that it will become available on demand at the previous link.

We mentioned Social Media at the start, and of course Fiona manages a Facebook page for the ASC Outreach Team. You simply need to ask to join this group.

Round up – whether you are 6 or 60 this microscope is a great way to take a closer look at the natural world and you might even decide that STEM is the future for you.

Whatever you do always have fun.

David Haines (and photos)

* You will come across other versions of the microscope that can cost way over £100! They don’t look any different to the one I used so take care.

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