Thursday, May 23, 2024

The makings of a true inventor: James Dyson national winner Jeremy De Leon talks shop

The makings of a true inventor: James Dyson national winner Jeremy De Leon talks shop

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From the time he was young, Jeremy de Leon had a fondness for tinkering and taking apart toys and appliances to discover how they worked and how to improve them. In college, he joined ideas and design competitions to apply the science and technology principles he learned and create practical, real-world solutions. It’s no surprise that Jeremy was named the 2023 James Dyson Award National Winner years later and qualified for the international leg with his invention, the Make-roscope. 

The Make-roscope is an ultra-portable, affordable keychain microscope that can magnify organisms from 125X to 400X when placed on the front camera of a smartphone or tablet. With its food-grade silicone exterior, the waterproof and easy-to-use Make-roscope can be used multiple times as an alternative to expensive compound light microscopes used by schools and laboratories.

The Mapúa alumnus introduced the initial concept of his compact Make-roscope in 2021, where it bagged the top prize at the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) and TikTok #PinoyInnovator Hashtag Challenge along his other invention, a flashlight microscope-projector, which also won fourth place. 

As a child, Jeremy dreamed of using science, technology, and math (STEM) tools to further his knowledge, which, unfortunately, were quite expensive then. So, when the pandemic rolled in and students had to stay home, the 28-year-old immediately understood science students’ difficulties. He believed that giving them access to a handheld, inexpensive, compact optical instrument would improve their learning and kindle their interest. The Make-roscope, in effect, democratized learning opportunities, fostering inclusivity and equal access to educational tools.  

The Make-roscope, a moniker derived from Jeremy’s name and his passion to “make” solutions, describes how the tool empowers users to acquire knowledge and gives them a yearning to discover.

Following his #PinoyInnovator win, thousands of online followers encouraged him to apply for a DOST grant that enabled him to produce 2,000 units. He donated 1,000 of these to schools, students, and organizations for free. The remaining 1,000 were consigned by a corporate foundation for their beneficiaries. These 2,000 users can be found in Manila, Ilocos, Marawi, and Mindanao.

Since then, the Manufacturing Engineering graduate has upgraded its design and functionality to the silicone-housed version and accompanying lab kit that earned the nod of the James Dyson tilt. His start-up company, jereMAKE, has produced 6,000 units, some of which are used abroad. His invention’s success did not happen overnight. Jeremy shared that he had to overcome financial challenges, time constraints, and class suspensions during the pandemic.

Today, Jeremy is applying for research and development grants to formalize his start-up. He is also looking at expanding the use of his invention in the education space by incorporating supplementary tools, subjects, and laboratory modules that teachers can use to maximize it. After this, he envisions its expansion in veterinary, agriculture, horticulture, and food industries – sectors that will significantly benefit from using a portable optical tool.  

He related how some clients use it to check the food fermentation processes, and several veterinarians used it during field consults. He also cited how agriculturists could use it to identify microbes in the soil while hog breeders could check their livestock’s sperm samples for breeding.   

“Ang gusto ko talagang mauna ay itong education space kasi ito yung sa tinigin ko na magko-continue ng vision na magkaroon ng mas maraming innovations sa Philippines, na ma-inspire sila na mag-innovate para may new breed of innovators,” said Make-roscope inventor Jeremy De Leon.   

“I really want to prioritize the education space because I think it will continue the vision of creating more innovations in the Philippines, so they will be inspired to innovate and create a new breed of innovators,” said Make-roscope inventor Jeremy De Leon. 

He also credits his alma mater, Mapúa University, for instilling in him the discipline, persistence, mental toughness, and progressive thinking needed to succeed. He is equally grateful for the encouragement he received from his Mapúa professors, particularly Engr. Phoebus Cruz, , and his student organization Tekno Teatro for building his confidence and presentation skills. 

Jeremy advises aspiring innovators to have a big dream. He said inventors should keep trying yet not expect positive outcomes immediately. They should aim for developing the best iteration. 

“The innovative mind comes from the iteration. Each iteration you make is a stepping stone to improving your item,” he said. 

With this mindset, Jeremy’s innovation is bound to have a more far-reaching impact than he ever imagined. He will make it happen. To learn more about Mapúa University’s Manufacturing Engineering program visit  https://bit.ly/AskMapua.