Stanford professor creates five-dollar chemistry set

Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Manu Prakash recently created a practical object that, on first impression, might seem to belong in the realm of science fiction: a five-dollar chemistry set that can be used to teach children about chemistry and address global health problems like water quality.

The set, which won the Science Play and Research Kit Competition, contains tiny silicon chips that themselves contain chemical reagents. The set features a punch card paper tape model that allows the user to manipulate the chemicals.

Prakash received inspiration for the design from a music box his wife gave him as a gift. The box allowed him to realize the potential uses of punch card paper tape, a tool that has been used in disciplines ranging from computer programming to fabric looms.

“In one part of our lab we’ve been focusing on frugal science and democratizing scientific tools to get them out to people around the world who will use them,” Prakash told the Stanford News Service.

“I’d started thinking about this connection between science education and global health,” he said. “The things that you make for kids to explore science are also exactly the kind of things that you need in the field because they need to be robust and they need to be highly versatile.”

About Andrew Vogeley

Andrew Vogeley ‘17 is a sophomore majoring in political science. Andrew hails from the great state of Texas (and he’ll be sure to let you know it) and serves as a news desk editor, covering the different student groups on campus. Besides editing and writing for The Daily, Andrew is President of RUF, a Christian fellowship group. To contact Andrew, email him at avogeley ‘at’ stanford.edu