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The Just-In-Time Adapter designed and built by Justin Turner, a student at Missouri Western, attaches any smart phone or small tablet to any brand of microscope. The biology department purchased 12 adapters from Mr. Turner and uses them in the classroom on a regular basis.

Affordable 3-D printers have changed the way we design and build, allowing anyone with a great idea the chance to become an inventor.

Recently a Missouri Western State University student saw that opportunity, and went with it.

“Justin Turner was a student in my genetics class last fall, 2014, and he had noticed that a lot of students would take their phones out and place it on the microscope eye piece and try and take a picture of what they’re looking at under the microscope,” said Dr. Todd Eckdahl, professor and chairperson of biology at Missouri Western.

That’s how it began. The Just-In-Time adapter was born.

Mr. Turner, a sophomore majoring in biology at Missouri Western, also realized he was spending so much time working on microscopes that it hurt.

“When you stare into the ocular lens for hours you can get a headache and also, if you want to share what you’re looking at, say you have something special, you have to get it just right and hope that it doesn’t swim off for your friend to see it or your professor to see it,” Mr. Turner said.

There are other adapters on the market for this, but his is original in one major way: It’s universal for any phone to any microscope, and can even fit up to an iPad Mini.

“Ultimately, I was so impressed by it and two other colleagues in the department were impressed by it,” Dr. Eckdahl said, “that I used biology operational money to buy 12 of them that are used by students in my class this semester and will be used by my class for several semesters and will be used by students in other classes as well.”

The device is simple, yet extremely effective. Anyone that has ever tried putting a camera phone up to a microscope knows that it’s very difficult to get a phone oriented in the right way for it to work.

“I saw that people had the idea to 3-D print it and people try to come up with their own designs, but I printed a few out and they didn’t work, so I took some pieces from other people’s designs and made my own design with them,” Mr. Turner said.

The adapters are a big hit with his classmates and they use them all the time, and from the looks of it, students will be using them for years to come.

“I can already tell that these are going to be a bigger part of what happens in my class in the fall semester,” Dr. Eckdahl said. “I’m going to be more deliberate about having the students use these and taking pictures under the microscope.”

Mr. Turner does not plan on patenting his adapter. He said he’s too busy trying to get into medical school and that patenting an adapter like this can cost thousands of dollars.

Jeremy Lyons can be reached

at Jeremy.lyons@knpn.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @jlyonsknpn.