Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Homeschool Files : How to Make a Cardboard Space Station

Well not just any space station but a model of the International Space Station (ISS). 

File:STS-135 final flyaround of ISS 1.jpg
Image from NASA

Noah has always been interested by space. A visit to the National Space Centre with his grandparents as a toddler left its indelible mark on his mind it seems and he comes back to it over and over again. 

His current interest in space and particularly the International Space Station is thanks to Tim Peake, the first British astronaut to spacewalk. We have followed Tim Peak's time on the ISS, watched him blast off with a thumbs up, seen his first wobbly gravity-less cartwheels and watched him repair the space station during his almost 5hour EVA - extra-vehicular activity.

We also watched his question-time with British school children who asked such great questions as Which is your favourite button and what does it do? Does your heart beat faster in space? and What is your favourite science experiment?

We've learnt a lot through youtube videos direct from the space station. Things like how you brush your teeth and wash your hair in space, how you make coffee and what food is like. We've also conducted experiments to help us understand the scale of space and the size of our planet - a tiny blip on the face of the universe! We like to watch the BBC Stargazer programme to and we also got ourselves outside and observed the skies to see the ISS pass over us

This last experience was truly magical. It's easy to find out when the space station will be passing overhead and really fun to observe. We can see it when it's night here but the station is still in sunlight so just before sunrise or just after sunset. Noah said afterwards "I really didn't think we'd see it mum! It was amazing!" I found it moved a lot faster than I was expecting and was exceedingly clear. We were lucky in that it seemed to make a perfect arc from one side of our garden to the other. It really gave me a sense of the fact we're living inside a curved surface in a way I had never experienced before.  

As I've said recently, no passion seems to be complete here unless we get out the toilet rolls, scissors, glue and double-sided sticky tape! Space is no exception and Noah quickly articulated his desire to make a space station. As usual I googled it - make a space station. I was rather disappointed with the results, no go-to tutorial, no creative mama happily paving the way. So we improvised. We based ourselves on pictures I found by googling cardboard international space station and took it from there. Here's what we did... 

Making the Space Station

Our project began by collecting lots of toilet roll tubes and then by sitting down with a ruler and a piece of paper. 

I cut out some pieces of paper roughly the length of about four toilet roll tubes. I then drew geometrical patterns on the paper - basically lots of squares and triangles which we coloured in with black and yellow pencil crayons.   

Then we cut out eight identical strips of paper and used a ruler to draw lines in black pencil crayon to make it look like solar panels. We coloured these in blue. 

I joined the tubes together using a method I'd adapted for making towers (when we made castles) which consists of cutting little slits around the end of one tube and sliding it into another. I then rolled the decorated sheet of white paper around the tubes and secured it by folding the edges over the ends. The extra length was created by the fact that the tubes were slightly overlapping each other once assembled. 

I then made a small fold at the end of each 'solar panel' and taped this flap to the tubular structure. We ended up with this: 

Once we'd created the main structure we got to work planning out the perpendicular one. We used toilet rolls and sized it all out first.

I drew patterns on correctly sized paper and we wrapped this around the tubes and secured it in place. 

Then came the really hard bit, putting all the tubes together. I don't have any photos of this, all I can say is we used a lot and I mean a lot of tape, double-sided and normal sticky tape. We also used paper to run across places in order to make the structure more secure. Here's the finished result:

It took us many hours spread out over several weeks but I thought it was worth it when I saw this face:

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