STEM Activity: Solar-Powered Space Station
Reach for the stars by following the steps below to make your own out-of-this-world, solar-powered space station!
- Aluminum foil
- Any size box
- Bendy straws
- Construction paper
- Glue or tape
- Paint, crayons, markers or other decorative materials
- Find a box to use as the main body of your space station. Color the box with paint or markers, or wrap it with construction paper, and set it aside.
- Cut another piece of cardboard into six or more strips. Each will represent an array of solar panels and should be sized so that you can attach three strips onto one side of your box. (The ones in the photo are 5 by 2 inches.)
- Wrap each cardboard strip with aluminum foil, with the shiny side facing out.
- Glue or tape the tip of a bendy straw to each solar array. Make sure to leave the bendy part free to move!
- Cut the bottom of your straws so that each is a similar length.
- Glue or tape the bottom of each straw to the sides of your box.
- Test the arrays of your solar panels by bending them in different directions.
- Enhance your space station by adding features you might want as you travel through space. How will you view planets and moons? Will your space station have a device to grab or interact with objects? What might make your space station unique?
Remember to leave the arrays of your solar panels free to move.
- Take your space station outside to experiment! Choose and mark a location that can serve as a base, where your space station can return throughout the day.
- Bend the solar arrays so that they are facing the sun. Note the angles of the arrays’ positions.
- Bring your space station back to your base location several times throughout the day. Do you need to adjust the solar arrays so that they still face the sun? Why do you think that is?
What Are We Discovering?
Did you know the International Space Station (ISS) orbits Earth every 90 minutes? The ISS cruises about 249 miles above Earth and is equipped with a laboratory full of new technologies. Powered by solar energy (energy from the sun), the ISS serves as a temporary home base for many astronauts studying planets and other astronomical bodies, as well as the effects of being in space on people, animals, plants and other objects.
As the Earth spins on its axis, the relative position of the sun in the sky changes. It is low on the horizon early in the morning, rises high overhead by the middle of the day and moves lower in the sky as the sun sets. Since the Earth is constantly rotating, the solar arrays on your space station need to rotate to keep facing the sun. In space, satellites with solar arrays require continuous rotation and mechanical adjustments.
Because May is National Inventors Month, we invite you to think about the many inventors who have helped change the world. One example is National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee Frank Cepollina who invented satellite servicing techniques, making it possible for spacecrafts like the Hubble Space Telescope and ISS to be repaired and upgraded by astronauts while still in orbit! Visit https://spotthestation.nasa.gov to find out when you can spot the ISS over your home and keep looking to the stars!
Explore This Summer
Looking for an engaging summer program that embraces the same type of hands-on exploration found in this STEM activity? For more than 30 years, Camp Invention® has inspired millions of children across the country through innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fun and learning.
To learn more about the fun-filled activities we have in store for this year’s Camp Invention program, we invite you to visit our website.