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Satellite Dish

by littleBits

Published on April 28, 2014

Learn the science behind satellites and make your own parabolic reflector.
Unique curved surfaces, such as parabolas, have a point called the FOCUS, where all of the energy entering the shape is ‘reflected’ from the parabolic curve and intersects at the focus. In your satellite dish model, the light sensor is your focus that receives energy from the bright LED and measures it in the number module.

Visit our lessons page to learn more about how a satellite dish works.

There are two versions of this satellite. The build instructions below correspond with the satellite project in the booklet, which has a simpler build and is scientifically accurate.

See pages 19-20 in the Space Kit booklet for more info.

How To Make It


Make the two circuits shown in Images 1 and 2.


Find a paper or plastic bowl and cover it with foil (try to find a shallow bowl, it will work best). Hot glue foil to the bowl, and trim off any excess foil.


To optimize the amount of light that is reflected into your sensor, you’ll need to calculate where the focus point is. To learn how to calculate the focus distance, check out: littleBits.cc/satellitedish


Use craft stick to make a sensor arm. The dimensions 
will depend on the shape of your bowl.


Once you have found the ideal focus point, glue craft stick to bowl. Try to align tip of stick in middle of bowl.


Rubberband light sensor to tip of arm. It should face into bowl. (see Image 3)


Create a mounting stick. Glue craft stick to the back of the bowl.


Cut slit in bottom of cup.


Stick satellite dish into cup through the slit.


Use tape and place number module on front of cup. Adjust sensitivity of the light sensor with screwdriver. Decorate by adding foam ball at the tip of the popsicle stick on the other side of the light sensor.


Shine bright LED into your dish... what happens to the number reading? Try different shapes like a mixing bowl or pot lid and see if you can improve your design! 

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