Cardboard Box Camera Obscura

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In this activity, learners construct a device that projects images onto a surface, so they can trace landscapes and other sights. The cardboard box camera captures the images using a mirror, holder, and lens, which work together like a simple camera. Use this activity to introduce learners to concepts related to optics, light, lenses, and mirrors. Note: this activity requires the use of a drill and saw, not included in the cost of materials. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per student)

  • 1 cardboard box, 12"x12"x12"
  • 3/8" plywood
  • 1 73 mm lens, +2.5 or +3
  • 1 3" inner diameter cardboard tube
  • 1 5"x7" mirror
  • black paint
  • 4 wood screws
  • foam core or cardboard
  • 2 thick rubber bands
  • drill
  • paint brush
  • hot glue gun
  • ruler
  • saw
  • utility knife


  • Mathematics
    • Geometry
      • Plane Geometry
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
    • Light and Optics
      • Lenses and Mirrors
      • Reflection and Refraction
      • Sunlight and Color
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Photography and Film/Video


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Oakland Discovery Centers


  • All rights reserved, Oakland Discovery Centers, 2012

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