This is my first Instructable, so let me know how I can make it better.
What is a Document Camera?
A document camera allows teachers and other presenters to project a physical document or other 3D object onto a screen for a classroom or other audience. In its most rudimentary form, a document camera is a glorified web cam connected (usually via computer) to an LCD projector. Document cameras are widely available and range in price from less than $100 to more than $1,000 for a complete system including projector.
Enter the iPad
So a document camera can be an incredibly useful teaching and presentation aide, but it's a bit of a one trick pony. With the advent of the iPad and its growing presence in the classroom, teachers have found myriad ways to use the device. With an onboard HD camera and the ability to mirror the display to another device (via AirPlay or cable), many teachers have found that the iPad actually makes a serviceable document camera.
A Little Support
To be useful as a document camera, the iPad needs to be held stationary at a height that gives the camera a reasonable view of the document or object being displayed. This design positions the iPad at 12" above the working surface, which gives a viewable area of about 9" x 13" (on the iPad 2 and later). There are a few commercially available iPad stands that could work in this context, but they're upwards of $40. There are also several tutorials online that describe other approaches to creating a DIY iPad document camera stand (see links at the end).
I think this design has a number of advantages:
- It is very inexpensive. The total materials cost is $5 per stand.
- It is lightweight (less than a pound) and can be easily disassembled for transportation.
- It is fairly sturdy and has an integrated strap to prevent accidental iPad droppage.
- It has a large working area that allows for larger materials to be displayed.
- Also, it looks a little bit like it came from outer space.
And to be honest, this design also has a couple of drawbacks:
- It requires that you have access to a laser cutter to cut the parts.
- It has a fairly large footprint. If you need something with the smallest possible footprint, there are better designs out there.
What You Need to Complete This Project
- 1/4" plywood, 12" x 24" piece (I used 5-ply Baltic Birch from Sloan's Woodshop for $4.70)
- 1/8" shock cord, 18" piece (I got mine at REI for $.25 per foot)
- 180 grit sandpaper, quarter sheet (optional)
- laser cutter (I used a 60W Epliog Helix at TechShop SF)
- small orbital sander or sanding block (optional)
- lighter (optional)
Other Equipment to Complete an iPad Document Camera System
- Apple iPad 2 or later
- LCD Projector
- Apple TV (3rd gen or later) OR iPad AV Adapter