Did you know that light isn’t a thing (i.e., matter)? That’s right, most objects don’t make their own light, rather we see things because they reflect light! For example, we can see the moon because it reflects light from the sun, our main source of natural light. If an object did not reflect any light, we would not be able to see it!

In this project created by Qiaojing and Emma, members of the Rosie Innovators program for young women in high school, you will make a kaleidoscope! This awesome device creates cool images via the reflection of light from objects on metallic or mylar paper.

Ready to make this project at home or in your classroom? Gather the materials listed on the right and follow the instructions below to build a fun kaleidoscope!

Required Materials

  • 1 craft roll
  • clear plastic (egg carton, packing material, etc.)
  • 1 card stock
  • 1 mylar or metallic sheet
  • tape
  • translucent colored beads
  • confetti
  • small circular drawings

Step-By-Step Instructions

Step 1

Place the paper tube on the clear card stock and trace out two circles using the tube as a reference. 

Step 2

Place the paper tube on the white cardstock, and trace out one circle

Step 3

Draw a rectangle that is 4.1 in x 3.4 in (10.4 cm x 8.5 cm) on the metallic paper.

Step 4

Cut out all the circles and the rectangles.  Be sure to cut a small hole out of the center of the white cardstock circle to look through.

Step 5

Fold the metallic rectangle  into three equal sections (about 1.35 inches each).

Step 6

Bring the two ends of the rectangle together to form a prism, and secure the seam with tape.

Step 7

Place the prism into the tube. 

Step 8

Place the white cardstock eyepiece (circle) on to one end of the paper tube, and secure with tape.

Step 9

Place one of the clear plastic circles into the craft tube on top of the prism, and secure with tape. 

Step 10

Fill the space between the clear plastic and the uncovered end of the craft tube with decorations (this can be confetti, beads, or anything small). 

Step 11

Place the other clear plastic circle at the top of the tube containing the decorations and secure with tape.

Step 12

The kaleidoscope is done! You can also decorate it with markers. 

Real Women in STEM

Resource 1

Yu-Jung Lu

Yu-Jung Lu is currently an assistant professor of physics at National Taiwan University. She is a material physicist, meaning that she studies the physical properties of matter in molecules and nanostructures. Her research focuses on devices that investigate harvesting, generating, and manipulating light at the nanoscale. She also works actively to inspire young people to pursue careers in STEM.

Resource 2

This project was created by a team of two Rosie Innovators – Qiaojing and Emma!

Qiaojing is a junior at Washington-Liberty High School. She is most interested in computer science, but physics and chemistry are also her favorites! Qiaojing’s interest in STEM is driven by her curiosity about the creation of things, and the realization of her strength in the domain. 

Emma is in ninth grade, and is homeschooled. She is interested in several STEM fields, including engineering, biology, psychology, and physics. STEM intrigues her because it helps her understand the world around her in ways she’d never thought of before!