Tag Archives: bugscope

The Bugs are Coming! The Bugs are Coming!



What bugs are coming you ask? The image of the bugs  projected from the Bugscope! The Bugscope project uses a scanning electron microscope (SEM) allowing students around the world to view images of insects. The Bugscope is part of an educational outreach program through the Beckman Institute’s Imaging Technology Group at the University of Illinois supporting classrooms around the world.

Teachers can sign up for their class to participate and use the Bugscope to analyze insects collected by their own students. The insects are mailed to the Bugscope admins and are made available during the scheduled time. Students can ask the Bugscope admins questions and the admins will respond to the students in real time during the teacher’s scheduled viewing time.

How does it work?

You sign up, (tell your students to) find some bugs, and mail them to us. We accept your application, schedule your session, and prepare the bugs for insertion into the electron microscope. When your session time arrives, we put the bug(s) into the microscope and set it up for your classroom. Then you and your students login over the web and control the microscope. We’ll be there over chat to guide you and answer the kids’ questions.

Why BUGscope? Insects are the right size and work well in the microscope. They’re easy to find on nearly every playground or backyard. They have great detail at high magnification that most people have never seen. They fit into most schools’ science curriculums. And finally, because kids are fascinated by bugs!

Although global, the screenshot of the map shows schools that used Bugscope is definitely heavy in North America.


The Bugscope website has several tutorials, resources and images to help integrate this technology into the classroom. While I do not particularly care for bugs or studying bugs, I can definitely see students getting excited about their upcoming scheduled time to use the Bugscope remotely. To see the magnification in action, I took a screenshot of the website’s example of a fly:


During the teacher’s scheduled time to use the Bugscope, the teacher logs in to a special webpage that is referred to as the interface.

On the day of your connection you will visit a special webpage we call the interface. This webpage will contain a live chat client, live images from the microscope, and interactive control over the microscope. Our newest incarnation, Bugscope 2.0, addresses many of the compatibility and filtering issues with previous versions. All that is required is a modern web browser (see our Computer Setup page) and a fast enough internet connection (1.5 MB DSL or better, Cable modem, T1, etc). The operator will have the ability to move the stage, change focus, and adjust contrast and brightness. These commands are relayed to and executed by the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) in real time. New images are then captured and distributed to all of the clients. A live video feed is also available to the operator for extremely responsive control.

After the Bugscope session, the teacher receives a multimedia transcript of the session of the insects viewed and chat log between the experts and students. This sounds like a fantastic way to make science instruction come alive and show ways scientists work with technology in the real world. You can check the Bugscope website to find out if schools near you have scheduled times to use the Bugscope or to apply for your classroom to use the Bugscope. The website encourages you to allow at least six weeks prior to the time you would like to use the Bugscope. Let me know when your classtime is invaded by the Bugscope – I would love to be a ‘fly’ on the wall!

**Pun intended and yes, I am well aware it was a lame attempt at humor but humor me anyway! 🙂