Jeffrey Yoo Warren

Community Microscope

The Community Microscope Kit, which I led development on at Public Lab, is an affordable microscope made from everyday materials, including a webcam, bolts, and rubber bands. It can be assembled in about 30 minutes and was originally designed to photograph silica particles, a form of air pollution from frac sand mining. The microscope is powerful enough to photograph 10 micron air pollution particles.

a photo of the kit with the words BUILD THIS MICROSCOPE overlaid, and a photograph of air pollution particles with the words THIS IS WHAT 2.5 MICRON AIR POLLUTION LOOKS LIKE overlaid

By lowering the barrier to getting a microscope, this kit helps make microscopic photography a tool for collecting otherwise invisible environmental evidence in visual form. While building your own microscope isn’t necessary to make use of one, it’s far more affordable, and encourages remixing and adaptation, and encourages divergent designs and uses.

three microscopic images of sand particles on multicolored backgrounds

a woman smiling in a dimly lit room while an image of cells is projected onto her shirt


MICROBREWS is a series of social events hosted at bars (or coffee shops) where people can use microscopes while they talk and hang out in an informal setting. I have hosted MICROBREWS in Providence, Rhode Island (at AS220 Industries), Valdivia, Chile, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, and it’s remarkable how different these events are from a more formal workshop or class. Contact me to talk about hosting your own MICROBREWS, and feel free to use the posters available here.

a woman smiling with a microscope in front of her, while a second woman laughs

assorted bolts, clips, rubber bands, and a webcam, and two sheets of plastic, arranged in rows

The Community Microscope is based on the open source LifePatch microscope, the Hackteria microscope, the OpenFlexure Microscope, and Max Liboiron’s work at CLEAR (#13503), among other sources.

Images CC-BY-SA Jeffrey Yoo Warren & Public Lab contributors

Jeffrey Yoo Warren is an artist, community scientist, illustrator, and researcher in Providence, Rhode Island.