Finding creative ways to teach

Metal stand on a desk.

Igor Jankovic and Todd Snyder fashioned a stand for an old web camera from scraps of 80/20 aluminum framing.

by Marcene Robinson

Published April 6, 2020

As educators and students across the nation rapidly adjust to distance learning, CSEE's Igor Jankovic and Todd Snyder developed an innovative tool to help faculty teach students online.


They are among the many faculty and staff from around UB who are adapting quickly to the digital learning landscape caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The tools and skills that faculty are learning now will help them meet the needs of a generation of students that are far more electronic. This type of environment has forced us all to collaborate and take a hard look at our preparedness for education in the future,” says Jeanne Myers, a learning designer in the School of Management, member of the UB Educational Design Collaborative and an Open SUNY fellow.

Transforming household junk into teaching tools

Todd Snyder

Igor Jankovic

Igor Jankovic and Todd Snyder channeled their inner-MacGyver to build a document reader that faculty can use from home.

For some faculty members teaching from their homes, the document camera is a missed technology from the classroom. Many faculty use handwritten notes to guide students through problem-solving steps. Without the equipment, students lose a critical piece of their learning.

So when Igor Jankovic, associate professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering, found an old web camera in a box of junk at his home, he decided to put the forgotten lens to use.

Working with Todd Snyder, instructional support specialist in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering (CSEE), the pair channeled their inner MacGyver to fashion a stand for the camera using scraps of 80/20 aluminum framing.

After quickly constructing a prototype, they formed an improved working model for less than $30 that functioned seamlessly with Panopto, a software for streaming and recording lectures.

“The beauty of these webcams, in addition to having a high-quality lens and microphone, is that they are old enough so that the drivers come installed on Windows 10,” says Snyder. “We tested it on my desktop PC, and the camera worked immediately and appeared instantly as an input for Panopto.”

Jankovic bought more cameras online and the pair manufactured five additional camera stands to distribute among other faculty. Snyder is also creating a guide for faculty to build their own homemade document cameras out of a range of materials, including wood, joints and screws.

Metal stand with light.

Igor Jankovic and Todd Snyder channeled their inner-MacGyver to build a document reader that faculty can use from home.

Read the full story in UB Now here.