The ISS Mimic – a Little Piece of Space at Freeman Branch Library

Over the last few months, the innovation lab specialist, Rachel Reed, here at Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library worked with Creatorspace, Boeing, re3D, and other community members to build a small-scale model of the International Space Station (ISS) with 3D printed parts created with our very own 3D printers! After lots of work, it is finally on display upstairs for everyone to view and see what the ISS is up to while orbiting our planet.

The mimic is a 1:100 scale moving, articulated model that mimics the movements of the football field-sized International Space Station by following the data live-streamed from the station in real-time. The telemetry, or transmitted data, is parsed by the Raspberry Pi minicomputer which powers the model and sends it to Arduinos. This hardware commands the motors in the Mimic how to move. With this information, the Mimic copies the movements of the ISS in real-time, turning the solar arrays, rotating thermal radiators, and using LEDs to convey different happenings on the station as well as its position. 

This isn’t the first ISS Mimic created, in fact, the current Mimic is the result of years of open-source community involvement and input to make it the accurate, sophisticated model you see today. The ISS Mimic project was started in 2019 by a few NASA engineers and has become a worldwide collaborative project that makes space exploration exciting, engaging, and accessible. The home page for the Mimic can be found here, including a link to their GitHub site which has more info about coding, files, and how to get involved yourself. 

The goal of the ISS Mimic is to bridge a tangible connection between people here on Earth and the marvelous station orbiting our planet. By making this amazing feat of engineering more accessible, we hope to inspire and encourage people of all ages to engage with STEAM, electronics, coding, and computer science. The International Space Station is a demonstration of what humanity can do when we band together towards a common goal, and the ISS Mimic mirrors this lesson on a smaller scale. It is the result of the library working with the community to make something exciting, educational, and beautiful. If you're interested in 3D printing, re3D has an amazing opportunity for you! Our partners at re3D are giving away a Gigabot! To apply for this "Gigaprize," applicants are being asked to submit a 3 minute video about how they'd use a Gigabot to support their community! Find out how to apply and more here.

Learn more about the ISS, model-building, and HCPL Innovation Labs

Visit HCPL Maker Central

The International Space Station

A Year in Space

The Ordinary Spaceman

3D Printing for Model Engineers