DIY Star Planetarium

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Hello, and welcome to my tutorial of how to make a star planetarium using a circuit playground! This is a fun gift idea or activity for your friends and family. This planetarium is light, portable, and brings space into your home. The fun addition of a lazy susan allows the stars to rotate in their orbits, and the circuit playground allows for changing colors of stars, as well as plays the song "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". Continue in the instructable to see how you can make your own star planetarium!!

*Basic skill level in Blockly/Adafruit coding is required for the circuit playground.*

Supplies:

Step 1: Supplies Needed:

For this project, you will need a few supplies:

Step 2: Drilling the Stars

This is the most difficult and potentially dangerous parts of this project. Please be safe as you make your own holes in the planetarium.

1. Place bowl onto wood block.

2. Tape or draw the shape of the constellation you want to drill.

Simply google star constellations to find stars around where you live. Some of the constellations I included: Big and Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, Orion and his dogs, Hercules, Leo, Cancer, Cepheus, and Pegasus if you need a starting point.

3. Make sure bowl is secure before starting to drill. Slowly drill into the metal with a 1/16 inch bit, making small holes. (There are many videos to learn how to use a drill gun if needed)

4. Continue drilling holes until you are content with your number of constellations and star holes.

Optional: Add a few drops of oil to the bowl to reduce heat from the kinetic energy of the drill.


IMPORTANT NOTES:

As I started building my project, I got a practice metal bowl for me test out different techniques of making “star holes” in my bowl. I used a drill motor to punch out stars. I tested out different sizes of drill bits to determine what size of stars I worked best. I found that a 1/16 inch bit makes holes that are best at projecting light in a small, starlike shape. The stainless steel bowl I ordered was more thick than I anticipated, so next time I would probably try to find an aluminum bowl or something made of a thinner material that is easier to drill.

Although I originally wanted to drill from the outside of the bowl, I was forced to flip it inside out to drill. Since the drill bit was so thin, I had a hard time drilling through the bowl material. It was not ideal because it made the sharp edges of the holes be on the outside of the bowl, but it was also effective. I would suggest drilling from the outside for your project and using a thinner bowl.

I cut out some constellations and taped them to the inside of the bowl in order to have a frame of reference of where to drill my holes. I had to use some oil to help the drill bit from getting too hot as I was drilling. Make sure you have a block of wood to drill into so the drill bit can stay sharp and manageable.

Step 3: Spray Painting Bowl and Base

I decided to spray paint my bowl and base both for aesthetics and physics. I think the black makes the planetarium look professional and cool. The black color also absorbs light from the circuit playground, which helps lights only escape from the drilled star holes. I spray painted the inside/top and the outside/bottom of each piece.

    1. As always, make sure you spray paint in a well-ventilated area, like outside. Use a piece of cardboard to prevent spray paint from getting other places besides the bowl and base.

    2. Follow instructions on the bottle to spray paint each piece. Make sure the coat is thick and covers all the metal and base.

    Make sure when spraying the bottom of the lazy susan that you rotate the bottom to spray everything with black.

    3. Let dry for an hour or more before flipping to spray the other side. Let dry again until the piece are safe to handle.

    Step 4: Programming the Music

    The programming for the music is a little complicated. The music is difficult because Adafruit/Blockly programming is limited in making music. If you have experience with JavaScript or Circuit Python, the music might be easier to program the way you want. Basic knowledge of Adafruit/Blockly is required to pick the correct notes and tempo. I hand coded the song of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" by coding the piano notes from a YouTube video.

    I included some screenshots of my code for "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in both JavaScript and Blockly.

      1. Go to https://makecode.adafruit.com/ to start programming your circuit playground.

      2. Use this video (or similar video) to see what notes and duration the song/code should be.

      3. Program each individual note into your code. Choose the duration of the note that sounds the best to you (I mostly use the "one" and "two" beats options.)

      Make sure the volume is not too loud, as the speaker on the circuit playground is tinny and can distort the music.

      Feel free to use your own song or coding techniques to add your own flare to your planetarium.

      Thanks to @PianoSongDownload

      Step 5: Programming the Lights

      The programming of the lights is simple. Although the circuit playground has 10 lights available, you can only use one light for this project. If you have multiple lights, the stars will duplicate and you'll end up with multiple star constellations.

      Included in the pictures are the general ideas of my light code.

      1. Go to https://makecode.adafruit.com/ to start programming your circuit playground.

      2. I turned off all of the lights except the middle left light.

      It does not matter which light you pick, as long as you only use one light.

      3. I decided to change the colors in my circuit playground. I coded some pauses so that the light would stay one color for about 12 seconds, before switching to another color.

      I chose the colors white, blue, pink, and green as a cycle for my stars, but you can pick any colors you desire or skip this step entirely.

      4. Make sure the brightness of the light is as high as the circuit playground can go (255).

      Step 6: Putting the Planetarium Together

      The final set up of the planetarium is relatively simple.

        1. Cut out patches of velcro to tape down the circuit playground and battery pack. This will keep the pieces from sliding around during transportation and activation of the circuit playground.

        I put the hook (soft) velcro on the battery pack and circuit playground and the hook (rough) velcro on the lazy susan.

        2. The lid should fit snugly on the lazy susan.

        Don't forget to spin the lazy susan to watch the stars rotate in their orbits. This obviously works best in a dark room with no light. Enjoy your planetarium from a dark room as you watch the stars from inside your own house!

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        Thanks for looking at my Instructable. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. I hope this helps you make your own awesome star planetarium using a circuit playground!

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