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Out of this world

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The trailhead of Nickel Plate Trail where Newhall’sscale model of the solar system will be located. Neptune will be at the trailhead, and the Sun will be located at the other end with other planets along the trail.
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Alex Newhall walks along the Nickel Plate Trail, where he plans to put upa scale model of the solar system for his Eagle Scout service project.
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This is a 3D model of the plexiglass cases Newhall will use to house the planets for his project. The planets will be very small in relation to the much larger Sun. According to Newhall, the scale for the project will be accurate in relation to the actual size of the solar system.

By BRANDON TOWNSEND - btownsend@newsexaminer.com

Alex Newhall’s interest in outer space will be translated into an Eagle Scout service project spanning the entire three-quarter mile length of the Nickel Plate Trail.

Newhall will be constructing a scale model of the solar system by positioning 3D printed planets along the trail in cases with Plexiglass windows that will sit atop posts. With each planet will be a sign giving information about the planet.

“It’s difficult to convey these huge numbers to people,” said Newhall, “so I thought if you could walk along the solar system and see for yourself how everything is set up it would be a really long-lasting lesson.”

Neptune will be positioned at the trailhead at 32nd Street and Park Road. As visitors walk along the trail, they will pass by each of the planets until they reach the sun at trail’s end. 

Newhall has mathematically calculated the size of his planets based on the real size of the solar system in relation to the trail’s length. In order to be an accurate scale model, the planets will be very small.

According to Newhall, the scale used for the project will be 1:4,086,000,000.

“Earth will be the size of a pebble,” said Newhall. “Jupiter will be 3 centimeters (1.18 inches) across. It will be small to look at, but I think that’s kind of the point of the project.”

Newhall’s biggest concern is that the project might be vandalized.

“I designed the cases to try to withstand anything someone might hit it with and looked into how to clean paint from the Plexiglass,” he said. “They’ll be up for as long as they survive any vandalism.”

Construction of the project will begin when Newhall receives the remaining necessary materials.

The service project is a requirement for Boy Scouts to earn the Eagle Scout award, the highest attainable rank in the program. One of the requirements for his project is completing it before he turns 18 in December.

“It’s the main part of the Eagle rank,” said Newhall. “You have to do a project that somehow benefits the community. I was planning to build benches at the (Mary Gray) Bird Sanctuary, but I wanted to do something that I was more excited about. I think it’s really unique and a lot of people will enjoy it.”

The service project requires that a scout demonstrates leadership. Newhall will be recruiting other scouts to help him in the project’s construction.

“A big part of the Eagle project is that you organize people to construct the project,” said Newhall. “That’s probably the biggest thing about Eagle Scouts. You have to show that you know how to be a leader.”

Newhall estimates that the entire cost of the project will be around $250.

Ball State University and Productivity Fabricators donated Plexiglass for the project. A-Plus Signs donated the signs, and the 3D printed planets are being sold to him at a discount by Xometry.

“If nothing had donated, it would have cost about $3,500,” he said.