Posted on 13-06-2008
Filed Under (teaching, Technology) by gashed

qx5 digital microscpopeWe have recently bought a few of these QX5 digital blue microscope devices for use in our second level science labs.  They are microscopes that allow the magnifyed image to be displayed on a computer screen – and further projected onto a screen.  They also also allow video of the sample to be made.  They’re great.

The device is actually made from a hard clear plastic, and it actually consists of two parts: the microscope body can be separated from the stand and stage.  This means that the microscope can be used a hand-held device.  The device comes with some speciman jars and small petri dishes, the samples can be held in place on the stage using a clip.  Focusing on the sample is achieved by moving the stage, which is raised and lowered using a large blue knob on the side of the stand.  The sample can be illuminated from above or below using two ‘supebrite’ LEDs; there is one in the microscope body and one under the stage.  The LEDs are controlled from the PC and the light level may be varied.  When the device is used in hand-held mode, the LED in the microscope body atomatically turns on.

The device has 3 levels of magnification x10, x60 and x200.  This provides more than the required magnification for many scientific investigations that may be undertaken in the lab.  Onion cells will be clearly visible at x60.  When using the device in hand-held mode, you be able to use the x10 mode to examine more closely lots of things, particularly on the body - hair folics, finger prints, scars etc.  and display them using an overhead projector.  I’m never sure that when students use conventional microscopes if they see anything, half of them close the wrong eye and the other half never quite know when the device is focused or not.  I could see this device as being useful in getting students to apprecicate what exactly they should actualy be expecting to see.

A nice long USB lead connects the device to the PC.  The software – windows only - is easily installed from abeard CD.  The interface allows you to view the sample, control the lighting, take a snapshot, or take a video.  There is also a ruler to measure the sample size.  There is also a simple gallery that saves the pictures and video made.  From this the pictures can be exported as jpg or bmp and the video can be saved as an avi file.  The software (perhaps the whole package) is very much aimed at younger kids – for which it is perfect.  It might take a bit of selling to older kids, who might be fooled by the software into thinking that this is simply a toy and not a useful piece of scientific apparatus. 

This product is not perfect, the image is noisy at full magnification and the ultimate resolution of the final picture could be improved.  That said this is the best option I’ve seen in its price range and despite these difficulties, it image is more than sufficent for use in the secondary lab (I have actually seen these used for experiments at third level).  The weakest point of this device, I think, is the stage.  It is quite flimsy and prone to moving or tilting making focusing difficult at times.  The focusing mechanism could be improved, there is lots of play in the knob making it akward to focus at x200.

The illumination capabilites are excellent.   No external power supply is required as the LEDs take their power from the USB.  This would make it easy to combine it with a laptop enabling you to take it outside and to record magnified pictures of the bugs you find, for example.  The ability to light the sample from above or below – or both – is great, and the light level is easily controlled from the PC.  This allows great images of lots of types of samples to be obtained.  The capacity to use the device hand held is great.  Particularly to zoom in on areas that conventional microscope can’t e.g. parts of the body.  The basic functionality of being able to take a picture or video adds enormously to usual microscope work.  Now recorded images can be compared, or closer examination and group discussion on an image can occur.  It’s also great to be able to magnified sample to teach without having to get every student to look into a microscope, a device that challenges many students.

It’s easy to be fooled into thinking this is a toy.  It’s not, it can very much be used as a piece of scientific equipment.  It can generate images and videos that can be used in projects or as teaching tools.  This is a great little device and even with its flaws is a must for every science classroom.

In Ireland it is available from a number of outlets including:

A great review by David Walker can be found here.


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(9) Comments   


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The QX5 is a great little devise that affords tremendous opportunities in education!

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