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Microscope Used in N.Y. Science Museum Being Reproduced for Classroom Teachers

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The developer of a "user-friendly" microscope that a New York City science museum is using to introduce children to the field of microbiology plans to produce a portable version of the device suitable for use by classroom teachers.

The "Wentz-scope," developed by Budd Wentz, an inventor who holds degrees in law and engineering, recently achieved national exposure when the New York Hall of Science in Queens unveiled a new, $1.5-million permanent exhibition called "Hidden Kingdoms of the World of Microbes" that features a battery of the devices.

Mr. Wentz said he initially developed the microscope, which allows several users to view the same slide simultaneously, five years ago when he was working at the Hall of Science. At the time, he was attempting to perfect a toy microscope to be marketed to toy stores.

Museum officials encouraged him instead to design a prototype of the Wentz-scope, which he built out of plywood.

"I figured I would build one museum microcope and it would be the last one that I would build," he said. "But people loved it."

He subsequently spent 18 months perfecting and patenting the museum edition, which he said is sturdy enough to be "used by a million people a year and not break."

In perfecting the device, Mr. Wentz said, he also corrected a number of disadvantages inherent in traditional microscopes that make them unsuitable for use by young children and untrained adults.

Unlike traditional microscopes, for example, the Wentz-scope does not display an inverted image of the slide being studied.

It also is impossible to break a slide while focusing the Wentz-scope, a mishap that often is the bane of inexperienced users.

And, he added, the arrangement of focusing knobs means that "there's no wrong way to focus" the Wentz-scope.

Mr. Wentz said that more than 70 museums worldwide have purchased the devices.

Some schools have also purchased the devices, and Mr. Wentz is thinking about developing a lightweight, portable version of the Wentz-scope.

Each Wentz-scope costs $1,275, which includes a display table and other accessories but not the 12-volt transformer needed to power the device.

Information about the Wentz-scope is available by writing to Budd Wentz Productions, 8619 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, Calif. 94611, or by calling (415) 531-1214--pw

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