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Design of a Remotely Accessible Imaging Lab for the Virtual Classroom

Team Members:
  • Shivani Pandey
  • Web Stayman, PhD
  • Grace Gang, PhD
  • Esme Zhang, MS
  • Jessica Dunleavey, PhD
  • Sarah Lee, MS


The COVID-19 pandemic has upended in-person learning across the globe. While most learning experiences have been impacted, adapting hands-on lab courses to a virtual format is particularly challenging. Students were no longer able to build, troubleshoot, and acquire skills through their own hands-on work; rather, they relied on simulations or watching demonstrations by professors. To enable hands-on learning with virtual course delivery, a remotely accessible microscopy lab was developed for the undergraduate course Build-an-Imager. Using both pre-fabricated electronics and components 3D printed in-house, we constructed a system that enables remote control of the camera, aperture, lighting, focus (Z position), and XY stage position. Collectively, these developments comprise our remote microscope platform, which can be programmatically controlled using Python in a Juypter Notebook interface. This system will be deployed in the Spring 2021 session of Build-an-Imager. The impact of this work goes beyond instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. We plan to provide such a remote option for Build-an-Imager post COVID-19 to satisfy students’ requests for increased experimentation time. Broadly speaking, our remote imaging lab enables increased access to imaging hardware for students in other imaging courses, and the platform developed in this work serves as a blueprint for incorporating hands-on experience in a remote learning environment.

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