DIY Microscope Tracking

Paramecium Perspectives
Research Question: 
Can human brainwaves control other organisms such as paramecium?
This project will use the Neurosky biofeedback sensor to read a human’s brainwaves, and will track the attention and meditation levels of the user based on the brainwaves’s feedback.  The strength of the 5V sent to the Paramecium stage will be based on the strength of the user’s attention or meditation levels.  When the user’s attention level is higher than their meditation level the outer rim will be negatively charged, and the center will be positively charged, causing the paramecium to go to the perimeter.  However when the user’s meditation level is higher than the attention level, then the middle will be negatively charged and the outer rim will be positively charged, causing the paramecium to move towards the center.  These movements are to control the paramecium to mimic the brainwaves feeding into a visualizer.  The charge will not be on/off, but will reflect the incoming brainwaves strength in each mapped category.  No change in movement will occur when the no charge is sent.





Ethical Issues:

“Paramecia do not have have a nervous system,” therefore they do not feel pain.  – Keith Comito

Documentation of Process:
I began with building the DIY Microscope first, so that I will have a viewing platform for the paramecium.
DIY Microscope:
  • TeckNet® C016 USB HD 720P Webcam, 5 MegaPixel, 5G Lens, USB Microphone & 6 LED
  • plexiglass (12″ x 18″, 3/16″ thick)
  • 4 – #8 32 x 2-1/2 Flathead Phillips Machine screws
  • 2 – #8 32 Wing Nuts
  • 12 – #8 32 Machine Screw Nuts
  • 16 – #8 Flat Washers
  • Petri dish


  • 1 Point Phillips Screwdriver
  • Hot glue gun
  • Lasercutter

I began by lasercutting the plexiglass, in the laser lab. Ali Schachtschneider who built a microscope previously, aided me with the laser cutting files.

Once cut, there will be 2 identical platforms and 1 smaller for placing specimens on.

laserCut 20141207_105115

Then Marta assisted me with taking apart the the camera and flipping the lens to magnify the video feed.


First I unscrewed the 2 screws on the back of the camera (note: one screw was hidden by a sticker) using a 1 Point Phillips screwdriver.

teknet back teknet-f

Then I unscrewed the 2 screws holding the board to the enclosure.


And unscrewed 2 more screws to detach the lens.


To access the lens, I took a knife and carefully shimmied around the glued area to loosen and break the seal.

IMG_4724 IMG_4731 IMG_4726

Then I took out all the lenses.

IMG_4732 IMG_4733 IMG_4731

Then lined them up, so I wouldn’t forget their order. There were a total of 3 lens, each with their own spacer.

IMG_4736 IMG_4737 IMG_4735

And found the best combo to be moving the middle lens to the back and flipping it, then removing the front lens, and moving the back lens to the front.


Then I reattached the lens to the board, and tested for clarity with the pixels on my computer screen.

Photo on 2014-12-08 at 18.20

Once that was verified, I hot glued the lens in place.

Assembly of the microscope stage was next.

I placed all 4 screws flattop head down first, and then put the screw nuts on with washers following to set the first stage tier of the laser-cut platform.

Next I added the 2 wing nuts on the bottom of the stage with washers as well, to set the middle stage tier which was the smaller platform.

Then I proceeded to add 4 more screw nuts with washers to set the third and final stage tier which was the platform identical to the first one.

For the final stability, I placed 4 more washers and screw nuts.

20141208_174759 20141208_174751 20141208_174725

Then hot glued the webcam into place.

IMG_2813 IMG_2814  IMG_2815 IMG_2817

And connected to a computer.  Then set the computer’s camera input to the webcam.

IMG_2811 IMG_2812


Final Results:

The microscope works and can find paramecium when scanning around the petri dish. There are not as many as when I started this project, but they are present.

Photo on 2014-12-08 at 21.42 Photo on 2014-12-08 at 21.46

The webcam DIY microscope was successful in capturing decent video of the paramecium’s movements, as seen below, so this will be a great aspect for continuing this project to use biofeedback to control their movements.

Though webcam DIY microscope was a great initial start for my original project’s direction, I was unable to complete the physical computing aspect of connecting a charged stage to experiment with the paramecium’s movement due to time constraints, .  However, I was able to create an openFrameworks sketch to simulate how I intended the Neurosky to effect the parameciums’ movement using particles as their placeholder.

mindControlledParticles-1 mindControlledParticles-2

These images show how the particles which represent the paramecium are effected by the biofeedback data of meditation and attention.  The particles are moved by the strength of the attention and meditation waves, and also the position of the negative space created by the biofeedback data is effected.  The user’s blinking turns on and off the trails left by the particles movement.

Particles Simulation gitHub

In the next part of my project, I was able to port in a live video feed from the microscope with a Blob Tracker, though the code is not refined yet, this could be beneficial for future DIY microscopes to have open-sourced software to track moving organisms being viewed on the DIY devices.

blob3 blob4 blob2

Blob Tracking Live Feed Paramecium gitHub


1. Wet Pong, Keith Comito.

2. DIY Microscopy.

3. Turn a Webcam into a Microscope. Patrick Hood Daniel.

4. Lasercutting File. Ali Schachtschneider


Although I was unable to complete my project and answer my hypothesis, I learned a lot about making my own microscope and how some of the documentation could have been improved.  Choosing the webcam for example, by choosing a manual focus webcam, I was able to adjust the lens without having to move the platforms too much on the microscope.  Carefully detailing the materials for laser cutting, from the size and thickness of the plexiglass to keeping the paper on to protect it from scratches were steps I learned throughout this process. The videos and instructions I came across on the web for creating your own microscope did not detail how to open the microscope and how to rearrange the lens order, so I made sure to cover that in my instructions as well.  Also the specific nuts and screws to put together the platforms and the optimal order to attach them were also key in creating stability.  Creating and documenting the steps became a project in itself.

This project became a preliminary step for me to prepare for my original idea, so I can continue with creating an electrified stage to add onto this DIY microscope to study the parameciums movements that are effected by biofeedback data.  Using a smaller stage to observe their actions is another conclusion I reached, since I had to move the petri dish around to follow some of the parameciums I spotted.  The webcam DIY microscope is fitting for a project of this size, and can be modified to encompass more complex experiments.

Powerpoint Presentation


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