Southborough Rotary supports science education in Ecuador with unique donation

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Boxes of foldscopes were sent to the children of Ecuador to introduce them to the wonders of science, thanks to the Southborough Rotary.

SOUTHBOROUGH – The Southborough Rotary recently made a connection with a Rotary Club in the tropical rainforests of Ecuador to help foster a love of science and technology in the children there. 

Initial shipments of devices known as foldscopes have been met with an “unexpected level of enthusiasm” according to Southborough Rotarian Carl Guyer.

Science at their fingertips

There are no science labs nor sophisticated equipment for the students in those rural areas of the rainforest.

But thanks to the delivery of foldscopes, science experiments are now literally at students’ fingertips. 

A relatively new device, the Foldscope is a hand-held microscope made almost entirely of paper, folded around a small lens. By holding the Foldscope up to their face, students can look at something on a slide that is magnified by a factor of 140. 

The devices are inexpensive and lightweight, perfect for shipping across the continent. 

“These devices give students their first chance to see the hidden microscopic world around them and inspire them to learn more,” Guyer told the Community Advocate late last year.

Rotarians send foldscopes to Ecuador

A local Rotarian introduced the rest of the club to Foldscope Instruments, Inc., which is located in Palo Alto, California. 

The group began to think of fun ways to introduce the devices to local students, considering holding sessions at the Southborough Public Library.

COVID-19 ended those plans. However, Dr. Acacia Warren, who is currently president of the Southborough Rotary Club, was a new member at the time and suggested that the children of Ecuador could use the foldscopes instead. 

Her sister still lived in Ecuador and could reach out to the Rotarians in the community of Ambatu for assistance in getting the foldscopes into the hands of children. 

“Another member immediately offered to buy twenty-two and send them to see how well they were received,” Guyer said. 

The local Ecuadorian Rotarians then did deliver the foldscopes, with help from an organization called Foundation for the Conservation of Aquatic and Terrestrial Biodiversity (FUCOBI). 

Warren sent an additional one hundred foldscopes which made a significant impact. 

Students used them to look at insects and plants. They also found that they could determine if their water was potable by looking at droplets through the foldscopes. 

Rotarians look to continue efforts

Local Rotarians were surprised by the response to this donation. 

“[That] only underscored our understanding for the need of science education in many areas of the world,” Guyer said. 

“The students sent a video of them dancing with joy in appreciation for the foldscopes,” Guyer said. 

Guyer said there is a goal to send 350 more foldscopes in the future. 

He said he has a spreadsheet with individual classrooms in cities in Ecuador. He has a goal to send 25 devices per classroom. 

Though shipping, tariffs and other fees represent notable costs in this endeavor, Guyer said the Southborough Rotarians are excited to continue their work. 

“We stumbled onto this, but now feel like we have to do more,” he said. 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help raise money for more foldscopes. 

That can be found by searching “Foldscopes to Ecuador” on the GoFundMe website.

A box of Foldscopes sits in the Southborough Post Office waiting to be shipped to children in Ecuador.

Checks can also be sent to the Southborough Rotary at P.O. Box 391, Southborough, MA, 01772, to assist with fees and tariffs. 

Those interested in joining the effort to organize a fundraiser can email Guyer at [email protected]

Rotarians thank Southborough Post Office

The Southborough Rotary Club would like to express a special thank you to the officials at the Southborough Post Office for helping them negotiate through the postal regulations and tariff restrictions that needed to be satisfied during shipment of these initial devices.

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