DIY Documentation Station

One of my tasks is to help document new projects at DHF.  My typical process has been to convince Steph to help me by taking photos while I work or using a tripod and a remote.  The tripod and remote is less than ideal because I have to frame the shot, start the timer and then run back to my seat to assume my pose.  I usually end up with a lot of blurry photos of me and my face looks unfriendly in the photos because I’m stressed about setting up the shot.  I finally decided to build myself a documentation station to help me create project tutorials and to also serve as a document camera during our educator workshops.  It turned out to be incredibly easy, practical, versatile and cheap! You can use it with a DSLR, a point and shoot camera, a tablet or phone, or even a USB webcam.

DIY Documentation Station IMG_5185 IMG_5187


Build Time:

30 minutes

Skills Needed:

  • If you use a saw, the ability to use a saw
    • If you use one of the safer PVC pipe cutting tools, it’s not as dangerous
  • Ability to safely use an exacto knife or scissors for cutting foam core


  • PVC Cutter or saw
  • Exacto knife or scissors or box cutter
  • Drill with a  3/8″ or 1/4″ bit


  • 3/4″ PVC (about 10′ feet)
  • 1″ PVC (less than 1′ foot)
  • 6x 3/4” Elbow Joints
  • 6x 3/4” T Joints
  • 2x 1” T Joints
  • Foam Core (you can get this from Amazon but it would be better to get it from a local craft or office supply store)
  • 3/8″ x 1.5″ bolt OR 1/4″ x 1.5″ bolt for smaller cameras
  • Ball head mount (optional)
  • Tripod mount for iPad and tablets (only needed if you are using an iPhone or tablet)

Step-By-Step Guide:

  1. Decide which camera you would like to use with your documentation station.
    • If you are going to use an iPad, iPhone, or small point and shoot camera only:
      1. You don’t need a ball head mount but I recommend it.  It gives you more flexibility directing your camera’s shots. If you use a ball head mount, you will want the 3/8″ x 1.5″ bolt.
      2. If you don’t use a ball head mount, then you can use the 1/4″ x 1.5″ bolt and the Tripod mount for iPad and Tablets.
    • If you are going to use a DSLR:
      1. You definitely need a ball head mount and the 3/8″ x 1.5″ bolt
  2. Cut your 3/4″ PVC pipe as follows:
    • 2x 24” length of 3/4” PVC (This turned out to be a little high after some use, if I were to do it again, I would make them 18″ instead)

    • 3x 22” length of 3/4” PVC

    • 8x 10” length of 3/4” PVC

    • 2x 4” length of 3/4” PVC

    • 1x 4” length of 1” PVC

  3. Assemble your base with the 3/4″ PVC pieces as follows:
  4. Assemble the 1″ PVC pieces as follows and drill a 3/8″ hole (you can do a 1/4″ hole for point and shoot cameras or if you don’t want to use a tripod head) in the PVC:
  5. Assemble the top assembly of the station as follows (the 1″ pieces should slide freely over the 3/4″ PVC):
  6. Combine the two assemblies:
  7. Cover the bottom with foam core poster board or another rigid material.
  8. Now you can use the hole to mount a tripod head and camera for documenting:

Quick Tip: Place bulletin board paper over the foam core to add more contrast or just to cover up dirt.

Making For Educators Resource Port:

If you enjoyed this project, I have many more that we are adding to our Making for Educators Resource Port. With a subscription to our resource port, you get a constantly updated and growing collection of resources covering all that we’ve discovered about making through extensive experimentation and iteration in our youth focused makerspace program. This Resource Port includes 15 projects (and growing), guides, and supporting articles to help you setup and maintain your own youth makerspace.


LittleBits Hacking Resources

Here are some resources to get you started with your LittleBits hacking:

Color Code

  • POWER = Blue

  • INPUT = Pink

  • OUTPUT = Green

  • WIRES = Orange

Order Matters

  • POWER first
  • INPUTS only affect OUTPUTS after them