How to Make a Model Satellite

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

  • 12×12-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 Image Credit: Jessica Begum

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.

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Things you\’ll need

Step 1

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

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.

Step 2

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

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.

Step 3

... Gold leaf a small box. Image Credit: Jessica Begum

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.

Step 4

... Cut glittered cardstock strips to size. Image Credit: Jessica Begum

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.

Step 5

... Glue cardboard and glittered cardstock together Image Credit: Jessica Begum

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.

Step 6

... Weight the glued strips with books. Image Credit: Jessica Begum

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.

Step 7

... This is the "receiver antennae.\’ Image Credit: Jessica Begum

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

Step 8

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

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.

Step 9

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

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.

Step 10

... Insert dowel in corner of box. Image Credit: Jessica Begum

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.

Step 11

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

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.

Step 12

... Attach baby food cap Image Credit: Jessica Begum

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

Step 13

... Attach antennae at an angle Image Credit: Jessica Begum

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.


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