A Planetarium for Every Classroom
Building and Using a Planetarium for Your Classroom Using Inexpensive Materials

dome built by Laura Grace

Desktop Dome

Objective: Build a simple desktop dome or sphere using circles formed into triangles.


compass scissors glue
thick paper ruler pencil

Concepts: equilateral triangles, geodesic surfaces, counting, circles, chords

This model introduces younger students to the concept of domes constructed of triangles, and can be easily scaled to larger sizes to build cardboard clubhouses, planetariums, art projects, and spheres. The size is only limited by the strength of your building materials. In technical terms, this is a one-frequency geodesic dome, or a dodecahedron (if fully assembled).

1. Draw 20 identical circles. You can make the circles out of paper, construction paper, or cardboard. You can draw the circles by using a compass, or tracing a can, or whatever method suits you. Cut each out carefully.
2. Fold each circle into the shape of an equilateral triangle as shown below.

3. Arrange five triangles into a pattern as shown below.

4. Unfold the adjacent flaps and glue them together. When the glue is dry enough to take the stress, glue the final two flaps together by lifting the center of the construction together to form a little cap. Then the two remaining flaps can be brought together to be permanently attached. If you want the flaps on the inside (not suitable for planetariums, but better if you want to make a sphere) you must pop the center of the cap down, rather than up, when making the final attachment.
This is what the finished cap (with flaps on the outside) should look like:

5. Make another cap with five more triangles.

6. Arrange the remaining 10 triangles into an alternating pattern like this, gluing adjacent flaps.

7. Form this strip of 10 triangles into a ring, with flaps in or out to match the caps you made earlier. You will notice that on the top of the ring has 5 flaps, and so does the bottom of the cap. Match them up and glue them together and you will have a little planetarium dome model made of one type of triangle!

8. Put the remaining cap on the bottom of the ring to make a dodecahedron.

For a projector dome with a smooth interior surface, put the flaps outward.
For a sphere or dodecahedron with a smooth exterior surface, put the flaps inward
Figures adapted from a diagram at www.desertdomes.com.

Your project is complete!

The size of the dome you make depends on the size of the circles you start with.


Click here for a printable version



NSTA Files

Building a Dome

2 Meter
5 Meter
Paint Your Project


Making a Projector

Building a Projector


Using the Planetarium




Celebration Checklist page

Send your dome building report to us!


Quick Links

Deer Valley High School Science Department

Antioch SPACE Academy

AstronomyTeacher's web site


Contact Us

Jeff Adkins

Cheryl Domenichelli



Site counter courtesy of www.digits.com

This project was supported by a County Technology Academy Grant funded by the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation in cooperation with the Contra Costa County Office of Education.