Build Your Own 3D-printed Ring Light to Upgrade Your Remote Meetings

We are entering year two of pandemic lockdowns and remote meetings, teach from home classes, and teleconferences are hear to stay. Early last year we addressed some of the basics of perfecting a decent space for teaching from home: The true, essential, and definitive guide to looking like a professional while teaching from home.

But some folks want a little extra edge, a little something that dramatically improves how you look in the camera while teaching your class, giving a talk, or holding a meeting. And not just because of vanity. The better and clearer your camera image, the easier it is for your audience to see and understand you (though vanity is a perfectly fine reason too, we have all spent far too much time this year staring at ourselves in the little Zoom box).

You could buy a ring light to provide the best possible light source for looking good on a webcam, but why buy something when you can spend several hours soldering and coding your own custom, addressable, RGBW ring light.

The good nerds at Southern Fried Science are here for you. I spent the last month polishing up my coding, soldering, design, and 3D-printing skills to bring you a 3D-printed, DIY ring light that you can build and code yourself.

Is it cheaper than a commercial ring light? No.

Does it work better than a ring light designed and manufactured by a professional team of engineers? Also no.

Can you independently control each color channel so it looks like you’re in the Matrix, under water, of cosplaying the This Is Fine dog via a large, bulky box that sits on you desk? Yes.

Does it come with a panic button that lets you bail out of Zoom calls by pretending that you’re being pulled over by the police? You better believe it does.

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The true, essential, and definitive guide to looking like a professional while teaching from home.

Our world is in turmoil. From the chaos rises a new breed of academics, dedicated to the proposition that, amidst the fire and fury, with the seas rising around us and pandemics descending upon our communities, they alone have the foresight to lead you into the light, to guide you towards a greater good,  to brace the walls and cry out, with clarity of purpose, “No More!” They will  raise a clarion against that greatest of tribulations: looking sloppy while teaching on Zoom. 

I get it. It’s frustrating right now. We’re all trying to figure out how to be good educators and mentors and colleagues in a new, uncertain semester of hybrid classes, asymmetric learning, and teaching from a home that perhaps reveals a little too much about the grim prospects of academia to our bright eyed students. There are ways to make it better, and there are faux pas to avoid but no one has any idea what “professionalism” looks like in the age of Zoom.

This is new ground. We are the professionals. Whatever we need to do to make the class work, provide our students with an enriching and valuable education experience, and not collapse, exhausted, into a three-week-old laundry pile where we lie, like a barnacle, until the next lecture, is professional. 

But given all that, there are a few things you can do to improve the teach-from-home experience for you and for your students.

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