By Marcus Gilfert
For The Sun
Some might assume teenagers don’t want to do anything during the summer but lounge around the pool or binge the latest video game. Instead, nearly two dozen participated in North Port Library’s “Out of This World STEM Crafts” program.
Their challenge was to create a scale model of the solar system.
This project required a combination of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM as it’s commonly called.
First, teens dove into learning about our actual solar system. They noted differences between information found in a simple Google or Wikipedia entry from that found on the NASA website.
Next, they set the scale for their model based on the size of the smallest planet, Mercury. Mercury’s model diameter was set at 4.5 mm, just under a quarter inch, so that it would be visible to the naked eye.
Then, based on Mercury’s size, they determined the diameters of other planets in our solar system, as well as the sun. Earth came in at just under one-half inch in diameter, while the largest planet, Jupiter, was nearly 6 inches in diameter, and the sun well over a yard in diameter.
Agreeing to settle on simple spheres for the model’s planets, program participants then used the free online program “Tinkercad” to create .stl files for the library’s 3-D printer. Planets were printed in white filament and painted by teens. They took inspiration from NASA images, replicating the actual look of the planets. Saturn’s rings were made through creative use of paper mache; meanwhile, the sun was assembled from a set of hula hoops and judicious use of yellow painted butcher’s paper.
As the teens finalized their planets they also gathered informational facts about them and created descriptive sheets for each one.
Teens then calculated the scale distance between the various planets and the sun. The result was that some planets had to be located outside the library.
Luckily, agencies throughout North Port came to the rescue. With the help of North Port City Parks, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections, The North Port Sun, SPARCC Safe Place, and Gene Matthews Boys & Girls Club, the completed planets were able to be placed at the proper scale distances from the sun.
Addresses for the planets’ locations are available at North Port Library, as well as on informational sheet located near each model.
Planets will be on display until August 12. Take some time to visit the library and community partners to view the tremendous work that community teens put into this project. You might just learn something too!
Submitted by Marcus Gilfert, Teen Services librarian, North Port Library