Wadsworth student Alex Kinch builds homemade satellite



Wadsworth junior Alex Kinch is working on a homemade satellite dish to receive signals from space. Kinch is hoping to receive either radio signals or cable channels with this dish. He began working on this dish in late February, just to see if it was possible to build.

This is the completed base for Kinch’s dish. Besides acting as a base for the dish, the arms also give the plates the right parabolic shape PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEX KINCH

“I want to pick up a satellite with it,” said Kinch. “But for testing I might try to just pick up a microphone signal.”

He started by 3D printing arms for the base of the dish. The arms are made to hold up the dish and keep it sturdy. After he finished the arms, he glued them to a PVC pipe, using it as a base for the whole project.

He then started to construct the dish, cutting aluminum pop cans into plates for the main frame. The dish is about 14 inches wide and was planned using mathematical calculations.

“I used a parabola to make the dish so that there’s a focus point,” said Kinch. “In the focus point you can put an antenna if you are using an antenna or you could even use a microphone.”

Kinch plans to put a microphone into the center of the dish after it is complete. He is beginning with a microphone rather than an antenna, because for him, it will be easier to pick up a signal.

After the product is built, Kinch will find a way to put the dish in a high spot to try to receive a signal. In order to receive a signal, he will need to point the dish in different spots to try to pick up a signal.

“It’s like a really directional microphone,” said Kinch. “You can point it [the dish] in a certain direction and you can pick it up [a signal] from that direction.”

Here is an example of how the plates could be fitted on. Multiple reflective plates will be glued onto the base to form a reflective dish.

Kinch says that all he needs is an open view of the sky to place the dish. He will then use an app to help him calculate where satellites are so he can position his dish correctly.

So far, one of Kinch’s biggest struggles is piecing the dish together and the arms together.

“My gluing method is not very precise,” said Kinch. “You stick it on [the arms] but it just kind of falls down.”

After he is done with this satellite dish, he plans to build another one. The second one will be similar to the current one, but it will be built around using an antenna in the center of the dish. Paired with a reflective metal plates, the dish with an antenna can pick up different types of signals.