STEM Science Project: DIY iPhone Microscope

STEM Science Project: DIY iPhone Microscope

I’m trying to do more science experiments with my son. We made a homopolar motor, learned about electricity with PlayDoh and LED lights, built a gamer remote control, made a 3D hologram projector, created a protective device for a raw egg, learned about the science of Ramune Japanese soda, and wondered why ice cubes crack in drinks.

I’m always looking for fun and easy science experiments so this DIY Phone Microscope got my attention. The video below made it sound easy:

I ordered my supplies and thought it would be easy to do, but boy was I wrong. First of all, the supply list is deceptively challenging:

DIY Phone Microscope to See Microbes

1) Inexpensive laser pointer

I bought this Silvercell Wireless USB PPT Presenter PowerPoint Remote Control Presentation Pointer on Amazon for $7.69. It was the least expensive one I could find.

DIY Phone Microscope to See MicrobesThe issue is taking off the lens. It does not pop off with a pencil like the one in the video.

DIY Phone Microscope to See Microbes
Not only do you have to pliers to pull of the tip but the lens is encased in bronze, with the one end covered up. It’s quite a task to remove the lens.

DIY Phone Microscope to See Microbes

After freeing the lens from the laser pointer, it has to be pounded with a hammer to remove the bronze cover so that you can see into the lens.DIY Phone Microscope to See Microbes

2) Poster Tack

DIY Phone Microscope to See Microbes

I failed to procure poster tack but I used double stick masking tape and that was fine.

DIY Phone Microscope to See Microbes

3) Flashlight

For $9, I bought this pack of four small flashlights, figuring that it will come in handy for something else. These flashlights, while the right size, are not flat on the bottom. I had to tape it to get it to stand upright. One flashlight also takes 3 AAA batteries which are not included.


4) Hard clear plastic to make mock glass lab slides. I used the packaging for an office supply for that.

5) White piece of paper. I used half an index card.

6) Puddle water. We used water from a stream but it sat in my office for two days.

DIY Phone Microscope to See Microbes

This was the set up: we taped down the flashlight with the light side up. We placed the half index card on top of the flashlight and then the clear plastic “slides”.  That black contraption is a tripod for my iPhone. We tried using that for the iPhone, but it was hard to get the lens in the right spot over the flashlight slide.DIY Phone Microscope to See MicrobesFinally, we had the pieces in place. It could be that the pond water organisms were dead but this is what we saw:

DIY Phone Microscope to See Microbes

I tried again a few weeks later when the weather warmed up. This time, instead from a running brook, I got swampy water from the ditch by my public library.

pond water for DIY microscope

I used a card with the letter “r” to make sure it works. Again, there are no living organisms. I think I am seeing specks of dirt. It’s been cold here lately, so I have to try again when the weather is warm for an entire week.

pond water for DIY microscope

I let the same jar of muddy water sit in my office for two days, and I FINALLY got some action!

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

STEM Science Project: DIY iPhone Microscope

I am an Amazon affiliate which means if you buy anything through my blog, I get a very small kickback at no cost to you. I use this money to pay for postage and handling for my giveaways.

For more science project ideas, please check out my two collaborative Pinterest boards:

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. That is really cool! It is amazing what people think up and invent!

  2. Wow it turned out so great, very creative did you come up with it by yourself? Its important for strong lighting for a microscope to be able to see it clearly also can you focus with the iphone when you are looking through the microscope? 🙂

    Thanks 🙂
    John recently posted…How To Use A Microscope – Ultimate Guide Infographic 2017My Profile

  3. Very creative Mia! I wonder if I could have used this on my science project 15 years ago 😉

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