Bioengineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have applied the optic add-ons to create what they've dubbed CellScopes, a release from the American Society of Cell Biology said Monday.
The researchers initially intended a mobile phone-microscope so rugged it could provide high-resolution imaging outside traditional laboratory environments, especially for disease diagnostics in developing countries.
But following a chance encounter with a local science teacher, they decided to evaluate CellScope in a different environment: a middle school science classroom.
Students at San Francisco Friends School took part in the development of educational CellScopes by carrying out a year-long "Micro:Macro" project taking macroscopic and microscopic pictures of objects in their homes, gardens, parks and playgrounds.
Images could be displayed in real time on the phones' touch screens and viewed simultaneously by multiple individuals, sparking interactive discussions among students and teachers, the researchers said.
The devices are now being tested for educational use with other classrooms and museums, they said.