Make a 1.5 metre glowing geodesic dome structure with Strawbees connectors, clear drinking straws and lots of glow sticks. Strawbees are plastic connectors that allow you to make things using 6mm drinking straws. We discovered that cheap glow sticks fit perfectly inside 6mm straws so we just had to make a glowing dome.
This is a fun project for camping and evening events for children.
The finished dome will have a diameter of around 1m and height of around 50cm.
The following geodesic dome diagram may be helpful to reference during construction. We used a children's climbing frame as our reference.
The finished structure should be self-supporting and sturdy enough to move around. The glow sticks add weight to the structure but they also strengthen it.
You will need:
- 65 10.5" (26.7cm) by 6mm clear drinking straws
- 55 (or 65) 8" or 20cm glow sticks (we made do with 55 but you can add an extra 10 if you like) We used the kind that can be made into bracelets. Check that the glow sticks can slide inside your straws.
- 6 5-legged Strawbees
- 5 3-legged Strawbees
- 10 + (5*3) + 5 = 30 2-legged Strawbees
- 20 + 20 + 5 = 45 1-legged Strawbees
Strawbees come in several different configurations. For some joints we had the perfect Strawbee available, for others we had to combine Strawbees. You can combine up to three Strawbees into a single joint and lock them together with a further Strawbee. The flexibility of the Strawbees means that the dome works even where we didn't have pieces with the perfect angles.
You will find it convenient to use an extra glow stick to poke your glow sticks far enough into the straws.
Step 1: Prepare Your Straws
The geodesic dome structure uses two slightly different lengths of straw. If you are using different length straws to use you can use this dome calculator to get the lengths that you will need.
Cut 30 of your 10.5 inch (26.7cm) straws and cut them down to 24cm long.You're going to need to be able to attach a Strawbee to each end of your straws with a glow stick inserted inside. It's worth testing this first with one straw to make sure you've got enough room.
You will need to take 30 of your straws and cut them down to 24cm in length.
Step 2: Make 6 Five-spoked Hubs
All of the slightly shorter length straws are attached to 5-legged Strawbees to form five-spoked hubs. We'll need 6 of these. 5 of these will form sides of the dome and the sixth forms the top of the dome. Making the hubs first means that you won't get confused between the two different lengths of straws needed in the model.
Attach the shorter straws around your 5-legged Strawbees to make hubs.
Put your hubs to one side.
Step 3: Make Base Level Connectors
You can make these base (ground) level connectors one at a time as you work round the base of the dome or you can make them all in one go at the beginning.
Each joint is made using a 2-legged Strawbee, two 1-legged Strawbees and a further 1-legged Strawbee as the key to hold them together. You will find it easier if you start with the key and push it through one Strawbee at a time.
Make 10 of these joints.
Step 4: Make the 10-sided Dome Base
The base of the dome is a decagon or 10-sided shape.
We decided to save on glow sticks and not put them in the base. If you want glow sticks in your base then you'll need to add them during this step.
Take 10 full length clear straws and attach them to the 2-legged Strawbees in the joints. Each joint will have two Strawbees attached to it. We had the Strawbee keys point inside the dome for consistency.
Bend the Strawbees a little to avoid putting stress on the straws. Work your way around until you have a decagon.
Step 5: Make Bottom Layer Joints
To make the bottom layer of your dome you will need 5 6-legged hub joints.
For each joint, take 3 2-legged Strawbees and join them together with a 1-legged Strawbee to make a regular 6-legged hub.
You can make all five regular 6-legged hubs now or as you need them.
Step 6: Start Building the Bottom Layer
At alternate straws around the base add a full length straw to a 1-legged Strawbee and each end and point them in to form a triangle. Join at the top with two legs of a regular 6-legged Strawbee joint from the previous step.
From this step onwards, you'll need to add a glow stick inside each straw that you attach its second Strawbee. You may find it easier to build part of the structure first and then detach the higher end of the straw and slide in a glow stick, use another glow stick to push it in if you need to.
If it's already dark when you're making the structure then you may want to activate the glow sticks as you go. If you're making it ahead of time then be careful not to activate them (you can do this later through the straws.)
Step 7: Add 5-spoked Hub Sides to the Bottom Layer
Now add a 5-spoked hub in between two the the triangles you made in the last step.
Two adjacent legs of the hub will be connected to the spare corners from the base of the dome. Two legs will be almost horizontal and will connect to Strawbees from the regular 6-legged hub connectors.
Move around the dome adding 5-legged hubs until the bottom layer is complete. (You'll have one five-legged hub left for later.)
Step 8: Make Middle Layer Joints
For the middle layer the 6-legged hub joints are made from a 3-legged Strawbee, a 2-legged Strawbee, a 1-legged Strawbee plus a further 1-legged Strawbee as the key to join them together.
The one-legged Strawbees will join to the unconnected spokes of the 5-spoked hubs. The two-legged Strawbees will be used to create a horizontal pentagon at the top of the middle layer. One leg of the three-legged hub will be used in the top layer and the remaining legs will complete the middle layer.
Step 9: Start the Middle Layer
Take one of the 6-legged middle layer joints and attach the 1-legged Strawbee to a straw that is sticking up from a 5-legged hub (inserting a glow stick as you work.)
Attach the downwards pointing legs of the 3-legged Strawbees in your 6-legged hub to unattached legs on your regular 6-legged hubs from the layer below using straws and glow sticks.
Step 10: Complete the Middle Layer
Work your way around your structure adding irregular 6-legged hubs.
The 2-legged Strawbees are used to attach horizontal straws to make a pentagon at the top of the middle layer. You'll need to bend these Strawbees to get a good shape and avoid stressing the straws. Insert glow sticks as you go.
Step 11: Add the Top
You should have one 5-spoked hub left from earlier. Take this and bend each leg down slightly. Attach the legs to the upwards pointing legs of the 3-legged Strawbees in your irregular 6-legged hubs.
You might find another pair of hands is useful to get the glow sticks inserted at this point. Or you can temporarily detach the top end from the 5-legged Strawbees so gravity is on your side.
Step 12: Light It Up!
If you haven't been activating your Strawbees as you go then wait for dark and then have fun snapping them (you can do this through the straws) and lighting up your structure.
The glowing geodesic dome looks fab at any evening event with low levels of light. Or you could use it indoors if you can black out the windows.
We found that the dome still looks pretty cool after the glow effect has worn off.
The dome can be reused with new glow sticks. You can even take it apart and reassemble it next time you need it.