A New Way to Zoom: App State Computer Science Professor’s Design

Dr. Rahman Tashakkori, department chair and professor in the Department of Computer Science, has helped design and build an inexpensive way to read documents over Zoom calls. The ZoomBox is a document reader, biology microscope-like camera and computer all in one.

Because of the global pandemic, document camera prices rose dramatically. “Document reader cameras such as those provided by IPevo went from $70-$80 to $350-$400 and it was not easy to find them,” explained Tashakkori.

In response, Tashakkori had the idea of creating the ZoomBox to be accessible to faculty and students at all levels. Version 1 of the ZoomBox costs about $120 to create or retail.

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Different models of the Zoombox. Photo by Dr. Rahman Tashakkori.

“We had already used a similar system for our Beemon project to monitor honey bees, so I thought I could use the system to create the ZoomBox. This is a cost-effective way to provide Zoom capability to our students and faculty,” said Tashakkori.

ZoomBox’s early version was funded by Tashakkori, but recent developments were paid for by Appalachian’s Information Technology Services and the College of Arts and Sciences.

A few of Tashakkori’s students in the visual and image processing (VIP) lab and Dana Greene from the College’s Machine Shop assisted with ZoomBox’s construction. They utilized a small computer, Raspberry Pi, that is similar to the one used in the previous Beemon project as the core computing source for the ZoomBox. 

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This image shows the zoombox camera capabilities from the desktop to the computer screen capability. Dr. Rahman Tashakkori

The Zoombox allows users to attend Zoom meetings while using the same system for document reading. The camera can move up and down and rotate in different dimensions. The system provides access to a web browser as well as Office-like products for document writing, presentations and spreadsheets. It has four USB ports that can be used for a keyboard, mouse, camera and headphone/speaker. There are also two HDMI ports that allow monitors to connect to it.

“In addition, the document camera and microscope camera give this tool a new dimension considering its portability. I envision that students build this system on their own and then utilize it to do great work,” said Tashakkori.

For questions or interest in checking out a system, contact Dr. Rahman Tashakkori at tashakkorir@appstate.edu.


About the Department of Computer Science
Appalachian’s Department of Computer Science provides a rigorous, high-quality education that prepares students for the computing industry or graduate education. It offers a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, which is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET and a Master of Science degree in computer science. Learn more at https://compsci.appstate.edu.

By Sophia Woodall
Dec. 9, 2020

Dr. Rahman Tashakkori, Professor and Chair, Department of Computer Science explains the zoombox capabilites over a zoom call.
Published: Dec 9, 2020 2:54pm