At Stratford it is our mission to inspire our students to become independent thinkers and creative problem solvers. As educators, we know that this is the path that leads our students to become the innovators and leaders who will create positive change in our world. We are proud that so many of our students already exemplify these traits within their academic life and more importantly through their interactions out in their communities.

This month we are highlighting one Stratford student for her innovative contribution to both her teacher and her Distance Learning classroom. Zoe is a second grader at Stratford’s Mission Viejo campus. She saw a problem and came up with a solution. During the sudden change to Distance Learning back in March, her teacher would often accidentally drop her homemade document camera (iphone perched precariously during a Zoom call) during a lesson. So this summer, Zoe set out to design an inexpensive, yet sturdy, document camera for her teacher, and with a little help from Dad, she did just that. Her main design goal was to make it as affordable as possible and she nailed it: she created it for roughly $15.

We recently spoke with Zoe to learn more about how she went about designing and creating her document camera prototype for her teacher.


What were the technical issues that you wanted to solve for?

Zoe: I wanted to help my teacher because she was using her iPad as a document camera in Zoom but it kept falling over. My goal was to figure out how to make a doc cam that was sturdy and also affordable. I was successful because my dad and I were able to make a sturdy doc cam for around $15.

What challenges came up as you were creating it?

Zoe: The biggest challenge was to create and 3D print a doc cam that wouldn’t fall over. I solved the problem by adding a spot on the base where a teacher can place a heavy soda can or coffee mug to prevent it from tipping over.

How many models did you create before landing on the final product?

Zoe: I created 23 versions so far. My dad and I are still making small updates to make the doc cam better. For example, before we used zip ties to keep the USB cable in place but now we have 3D printed cable hooks built into the base and arm joint. Also the first versions could only use a soda can for a weight but the updated versions are wide enough to hold a coffee mug.

How long did the process take from design to product?

Zoe: It took several months to make because I had to learn a lot from my dad. It was a lot easier to make than our last project: a myoelectric neural interface for my dad’s Tesla!

Is there anything else that you learned and would like to share about the experience?

Zoe: I learned that it feels really good when you can build something to help others.

On the first day of school, during the materials pick up session, Zoe presented her teacher with her very own Desk Cam, personally engraved for Ms. Ko. And, yes, you can see the smile of surprise and appreciation shine through her mask as Ms. Ko was presented with Zoe’s thoughtful gift! Zoe (and the family) is ramping up production to help more teachers.