Introduction: Rotating Growing Chamber

This is the official Fountain Fort Carson High School Engineering submission.

Our group built a rotating growing chamber, to allow plants to grow in zero gravity. It has a single light as well as a water source, that allows plants to be easily watered even while spinning. The light is a grow light, that assures plants get a similar light source as they would from the sun.

The entire chamber rotates on a bearing. Spinning at 60 rotations per minute allows the plants to grow as if they were still in Earth gravity. It currently holds 8 mid to large size plants, and is completely modular. Another cylinder could be added on top if necessary, allowing for the increased growing of more plants.

The plant it was designed for is romaine lettuce. This specific breed of lettuce is robust and easy to grow.

Step 1: Cutting Out a Base

To begin, a base needs to be cut.

In order to achieve this, we used a precision plasma cutter, that allowed us to measure exactly how big the base was going to be. The diameter was set to 45 cm, to allow some space on the outside if need be.

A piece of sheet metal was placed onto the cutter, and the machine used a program to cut out the shape we had drawn in it.

Step 2: Drilling a Hole in the Base

To create the bearing that we needed, a hole had to be cut into the base. We added a small grid made of sharpie into the base, in order to get the exact center.

A drill press with a 3 cm drill bit was used, along with lubricant, to slowly drill a hole into the center of the base. The hole was made slightly larger than the pole that was going to be inserted, to ensure a minimal amount of friction between the two.

Step 3: Forming a Cylinder

A piece of scrap metal over 141.37 cm was needed to form the cylinder. Unable to find a piece that large, we welded a square cut from another piece in order to achieve the necessary length.

We then placed the long scrap metal over a barrel, where over the course of several days, we slowly formed it into shape. To form it, we used heat from a torch, and a hammer to better mold it to the barrel.

This was the longest part of our project, as it was cold outside so the metal heated up slowly and cooled off quickly. To form the metal it had to be red hot, and maintaining that heat was difficult.

Step 4: Creating the Bearing

The bearing was a metal circle on top of a shallow box, with golf balls in the middle. It had a pole coming through the middle that fits through the hole in the base. This allowed it to easily rotate and spin, creating the gravity.

To cut the metal circle we used a plasma cutter, and measured it so that 8 golf balls could fit evenly inside. The hollow center of the circle was grind down to be smooth, to ensure the balls didn't get caught on sharp edges.

A simple square base was added at the bottom, and measured to be 3/4ths the height of a golf ball. This was to allow the balls to poke out of the top, creating a rolling platform that could easily spin.

A pole was welded onto the center of the base, that would connect to the main chamber.

Step 5: Spray Painting

The colours white and blue where chosen, as they are very traditional NASA colours.

The main chamber was spray painted a bright blue, and the bearing was spray painted white. We added several coats onto each over the course of a couple days.

Step 6: Adding the Plants, Light, and Water

The last step was to add the plants, light, and water.

We used traditional self-watering planters. These planters were filled with growing soil and placed inside the chamber at a 45 degree angle using hot glue. This degree was chosen to ensure the plants would not be negatively effected by the gravity the chamber creates.

A grow light was used and clamped onto the top of the bearing. The light stays in place, while the plants spin underneath. A pump inside of the bearing is used to manually water plants when needed. If it is over watered the planters will disperse the extra water through a hole in the bottom.

Step 7: Finished Product

The final product with a video demonstrating it rotating.

This design is completely modular. More cylinders can easily be placed on top of the bearing in order to increase growing power if needed.

Thank you for reading our Instructable, and for your consideration in the contest. We had a lot of fun building this, and it taught us a lot about growing plants.

Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

Participated in the
Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest