How to Make a Model Satellite

You can make a model satellite using mostly items found around the house and in the recycling bin. This is a relatively easy, fun activity to do with kids and a great idea for a science fair project.

Things You'll Need

  • Collection of recycled caps
  • Toothpicks
  • Thin cardboard such as a recycled cereal box
  • Small box such as a recycled halogen box, tea box or juice box
  • Sheet of glittered blue decorative cardstock
  • Gold and silver spray paint
  • Gold leafing kit
  • 12x12-inch foam piece
  • Tin foil
  • White glue
  • Hot glue gun
  • 1/4-inch x 10-inch wooden dowel
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Clear tape
Model Satellite
Model Satellite (Image: Jessica Begum)

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Things you'll need

Step 1

With mostly recycled materials like bottle caps and cardboard and some craft supplies, you can create a model satellite. Please see the last slide for an itemized list of tools and materials.

Make a model satellite from recycled materials.
Make a model satellite from recycled materials. (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 2

Start by spray painting a collection of caps, toothpicks and recycled cardboard (such as a cereal box) either silver or gold. The collection here consists of 1 baby food jar lid, 1 bottle cap, and 3 toothpicks. The cardboard is cut into 2 strips each measuring 1 ½ inches by 6 inches. Your collection can consist of other recycled caps. You can make the caps two-toned by spraying the insides with gold first, and the outsides silver. Allow to dry for 20 minutes.

Spray paint caps, toothpicks and cardboard.
Spray paint caps, toothpicks and cardboard. (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 3

Using a gold leafing kit, gold leaf a small cardboard box such as a recycled halogen light bulb box (pictured). A square box is best, but not necessary. This one is 3 inches by 3 inches. You could also use a tea box, juice box or even a toilet paper roll cut in half.

Every gold leafing kit is different. Follow your brands' specific directions. You could also omit this step and simply spray paint your box gold.

Gold leaf a small box.
Gold leaf a small box. (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 4

With scissors, trim a piece of blue glittered cardstock into 2 strips measuring 1 ½ inches by 6 inches. You want these to match the measurements of your sprayed cardboard strips.

Cut glittered cardstock strips to size.
Cut glittered cardstock strips to size. (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 5

Apply glue to the backside of a cardboard strip and attach to the backside of a glittered strip, inserting a sprayed toothpick ½ inch deep between the cardboard strip and the glittered strip. Repeat with the other strips. These will be the “solar panels” on your satellite.

Glue cardboard and glittered cardstock together
Glue cardboard and glittered cardstock together (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 6

Place the glued strips under heavy books for 30 minutes. If edge where toothpick was inserted does not seal completely, re-seal with hot glue or tape.

Weight the glued strips with books.
Weight the glued strips with books. (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 7

With a hot glue gun, attach a sprayed toothpick to the backside of the sprayed bottle cap. This will be your "receiver antennae."

This is the "receiver antennae.'
This is the "receiver antennae.' (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 8

Cover a 12 inch x 12 inch foam sheet with tin foil, shiny side out. Inset wooden dowel into the center of the covered foam. This will be the base to hold up your satellite.

Cover foam with tin foil to make base.
Cover foam with tin foil to make base. (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 9

Using the point of a sharp pair of scissors, make a small hole in two opposite sides of the box. Insert pre-made "solar panels" (these are the cardboard strips glued to the glittered strips with a toothpick between them) into the holes toothpick first, using a dab of glue on toothpick to secure.

Poke holes in side of box to attach "solar panels."
Poke holes in side of box to attach "solar panels." (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 10

With scissors, trim the bottom corner of the box and insert a wooden dowel. Use a dab of hot glue on the dowel to secure.

Insert dowel in corner of box.
Insert dowel in corner of box. (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 11

Using a dab of hot glue, attach the “lens” of the satellite to the bottom of the box in the middle of the solar panels. In this case, a clear recycled spice top serves as the lens. You could also use a small mirror from a make-up compact, a small magnifying glass, or any sort of small clear round plastic piece.

A clear plastic piece makes a lens.
A clear plastic piece makes a lens. (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 12

Attach sprayed baby food cap to the opposite end of the lens or to the top of the box.

Attach baby food cap
Attach baby food cap (Image: Jessica Begum)

Step 13

Using the sharp point of scissors, make a small hole in the backside of the box (between solar panels and lens) and insert toothpick with bottle cap attached, this time angling the toothpick as it is inserted. Use a small dab of white glue on the toothpick to secure. This will be the receiver antennae for your satellite.

Attach antennae at an angle
Attach antennae at an angle (Image: Jessica Begum)

Tips & Warnings

  • Adults should complete spray painting and hot gluing steps. Spray painting should always be done outside.
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