Chemistry kits, once common and popular toys for kids to play with, have essentially disappeared because parents can no longer stand the fear of having their house set on fire. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public asked scientists to “reimagine the chemistry set for the 21st century,” and the winner is none other than Manu Prakash of Stanford University that recently unveiled the 50 cent microscope called Foldscope.
The $5 chemistry set is a cute combination of microfluidics and the latest in punch card technology, powered by a wind-up music box mechanism that precisely combines tiny amounts of chemicals according to the program on the punch card. Because the quantity of chemicals inside is tiny and they are contained within the device, it’s fundamentally safer than using pipettes and test tubes in a bedroom lab. We’ll see, though, whether kids are inspired by chemistry on a tiny scale. Here’s a Stanford video showing off the new device: