Make All the Things: Shoebox Cell Phone Projector

Here’s an easy project you can do in under an hour, that’s fun science, easy, and potentially very useful!

Step 1: Get All Your Stuff!


If you’re fairly crafty most of these things will already be in your house, except maybe the first thing:

  • A Magnifying Glass (Hint: Get one of these babies at the dollar store in the school supplies section!)
  • A Shoe Box
  • Black Construction Paper, Black Spray Paint, or both
  • X-acto Knife
  • Pen
  • Tape (electrical or duct)
  • A Paperclip
  • Your Cell Phone

Step 2: Cut a Hole in the Box! *No, Step 2 is not to put your junk in that box, so do not jump ahead of me here… ;-)


Use your pen to trace the magnifying glass onto the box because x-acto knives are already dangerous. Please don’t make this any harder than it has to be.

Step 3: Attach the Magnifying Glass!


Before you do this, make sure you break or cut off the handle. Then tape it securely to the box in whatever way you find easiest not to cover the actual lense. I chose to take the lense out and tape it’s plastic casing to the box before replacing the glass lense.

Step 4: Make the Inside Dark!4

Here’s where the construction paper/paint come in. Any light entering the box, or reflections from lighter colored surfaces, are going to hinder the projection. You can darken the inside of your box any way you see fit because all shoe boxes are not created equal. I chose to use construction paper because I could use the overhanging flaps to cover some of the areas where light was getting into the box. Luckily this was easy to spot because I had a big ol’ hole in one side!

Step 5: Make a Phone Stand!5

If you’re one of those super schnazzy kids with a phone stand you can skip this part, but otherwise grab a paper clip and get bending. Mine has one flat back piece, two flat legs that lay on the ground, and two little hooks in the front to stop it from sliding off.

Step 6: Get Your Phone Ready!6

Because of science reasons, all the images on your phone are going to be broadcast out into the world both upsidedown and backwards. Upside down is easy to fix by just turning off your auto-rotate feature, and if you really need your image the right way you can either flip it or download an app to flip your entire screen (For example, if you’re going to be watching a video with subtitles, which I’m assuming is the reason we’re all doing this, right?) As for your phone’s placement inside the box, that’s going to be a little tricky, but the only real way for you to figure out exactly where it should be will be to move onto the next step:

Step 7: Make it Get Dark!7

Draw the blinds, paint over your windows, take a nap until dark, wait for the sun to die, whatever you have to do. Not only does your phone need to be properly placed inside the box, but the box needs to be proper length away from a big blank wall (or hang a sheet if you don’t have any blank walls!) This part can take a second, but the good news is that when you get it right you can mark the placement of your phone holder inside the box, or if you’re feeling really confident, glue it!

Once you get your phone all situated, do whatever it was you were planning on doing with it! Look at pictures of your dogs, watch a movie, or… wait, you did this whole project and have no idea why? Great! Tune in next week and I’ll show you the reason why I decided to make one of these! Until then, here’s a hint:


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    By: Chelsea Patton

    If you want something done right, you shouldn’t always do it yourself, but that won’t stop Chelsea from trying. Besides indulging in projects way over her head, she can often be found gardening, thrift shopping, and posting way too many pictures of her dogs to Instagram.

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