Bioengineer Manu Prakash is an innovator in STEM education. Earlier this year, we celebrated Prakash’s debut of his awesome paper microscope. Now, along with his graduate student George Korir, he has won first prize in the the Science, Play and Research Kit (SPARK) Competition with the development a hand-crank chemistry set for kids, from Wired.
Prakash hopes to kindle some of the same curiosity about chemistry (minus the actual combustion) with a new hand-crank operated chemistry set for kids. A prototype of the device just won the $50,000 first prize in a contest for inspiring science toys sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public…
The chemistry kit developed by Prakash and graduate student George Korir manages to be both cutting edge and retro at the same time. It uses microfluidic channels like those found in modern DNA chips and other molecular biology equipment to move chemicals around and mix them together. But it also uses punch cards like the ones used in 1950s era computers to control the experiments.
As you turn the hand crank, the punch card moves through the device, and the pattern of holes punched in the paper controls which chemicals mix with which, and when. Small chips with tiny fluid reservoirs can house up to 15 different chemicals. These could either be pre-loaded or filled by a teacher or parent with an eyedropper. “It’s purely mechanical,” Prakash said. “There’s no electronics, no battery.”
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