The Stargate | The MagPi 101

Fans of the Stargate SG-1 series, prepare to be inspired: a fellow aficionado has fashioned his own model of the show’s iconic portal. Nicola King takes an interstellar trip in the latest issue of The MagPi Magazine.

A mini version of the Stargate from TV sat on a table. Blue glowing light emits from the fake tunnel

When Kristian Tysse began making some projects on his new 3D printer, he soon became aware that the possibility of printing his own ‘working’ Stargate SG-1 model was within his grasp at last. “I suddenly realised I might now have enough knowledge about 3D printing, Raspberry Pi, motors, and programming to actually make a Stargate model of my own,” he tells us. “I wanted people who are familiar with the show to immediately know what it was, and tried to make it work as best I could, while staying as true as possible to the feeling and essence of the TV show.”

Raspberry Pi buried in the wires powering the mini stargate

Kristian also wanted to use a Raspberry Pi within this fully interactive, light-up, moving-parts project as “it is a powerful device with lots of flexibility. I do like that it functions as a full computer with an operating system with all the possibility that brings.”

Model minutiae

The back of the stargate controller with no lights on

You only have to look at the model to see just how much 3D printing was needed to get all of the parts ready to piece together, and Kristian created it in segments. But one of the key parts of his model is the DHD or Dial Home Device which viewers of the series will be familiar with. “The DHD functions as a USB keyboard and, when the keys are used, it sends signals to the (Python) program on Raspberry Pi that engages the different motors and lights in a proper Stargate way,” he enthuses. “If a correct set of keys/symbols are pressed on the DHD, the wormhole is established – illustrated on my Stargate with an infinity mirror effect.” 

“I wanted people who are familiar with the show to immediately know what it was”

Kristian Tysse

However, the DHD was a challenge, and Kristian is still tweaking it to improve how it works. He admits that writing the software for the project was also tricky, “but when I think back, the most challenging part was actually making it ‘functional’, and fitting all the wires and motors on it without destroying the look and shape of the Stargate itself.”

Dazzling detail

A close up of the stargate control panel with glowing orange touch buttons

Kristian admits to using a little artistic licence along the way, but he is keen to ensure the model replicates the original as far as possible. “I have taken a few liberties here and there. People on the social media channels are quick to point out differences between my Stargate and the one in the series. I have listened to most of those and done some changes. I will implement some more of those changes as the project continues,” he says. He also had to redesign the project several times, and had a number of challenges to overcome, especially in creating the seven lit, moving chevrons: “I tried many different approaches before I landed on the right one.”

The results of Kristian’s time-intensive labours are truly impressive, and show what you can achieve when you are willing to put in the hours and the attention to detail. Take a look at Kristian’s extremely detailed project page to see more on this super-stellar make.

Issue #101 of The MagPi Magazine out NOW

The front cover of the magazine featuring Raspberry Pi 400

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Jaffa avatar


Nick avatar

Tek’ma’te, Jaffa!

Billy avatar

This is should be an Arduino project not a Raspberry Pi project. The Raspberry Pi is completely the wrong tool for the job.

Carlos Luna avatar

I’d say the Pi is the perfect tool for this project. Using Python makes it easy for the try-debug cycle, whereas with Arduino it’s a pain, just the need to have the Arduino board physically connected to a computer to program it is a nuissance. With the Pi you can do it wirelessly. And it gives you better upgradability – later on he can expand it to send Tweets everytime he dials a valid “address”, or maybe have ti to activate via bluetooth. All that without adding extra hardware (shields?). So, as you can see, the Pi is perfect for this.

Billy avatar

A Raspberry Pi is the perfect tool for the job because you don’t realise that most debugging features for most programming languages function the same? A Raspberry Pi is the perfect tool for the job because you can program it remotely… don’t you need to touch the buttons on the DHD to make it do something – therefore it needs to be within arms reach anyway? A Raspberry Pi is the perfect tool for the job because of some feature that might be thought up of one day in the future (there is no future work section in the article outlining desired features)…why stop at a Raspberry Pi, i think it needs a super computer with thousands of IO, etc, etc, etc just to be future proof?

Carlos Luna avatar

(Arm reach is usually longer than USB cable reach, and I’m not talking about debugging features but about the difference between an interpreted language and a compiled one, and the ease you have when you can do thing wirelessly)
A Pi is the perfect job for this because it’s not a job, it’s a hobby thing. The only contraint is your imagination. You don’t have to be on a certain budget (except your own) and you don’t have to meet certain goals (except your own). And yes, if you can find a low cost, low power consumption super computer that can be fit into the model (he had some hard time trying to conceal all the circuitry if my mind serves me well) then by all means use it. Who’s stopping you?

Some people forget that making a project like this is not about following the engineer approved way – most of the time it’s all about doing it, the way you can do it, learning along the way, discovering new ways to do it and having fun. By the end you can might find that it could have been done in a lot of other (better?) ways, but if it was done “the right way” from the beginning then many thing wouldn’t have been learnt. If there was only one way to do things and only one right tool for a job, we’d still be using stone axes while watching the sun go around the earth.

Billy avatar

You either have shockingly long arms or only purchase tiny USB cables…
Debugging features ares the same between assembly languages, C and C++, and languages like Python and Perl. You need to find better IDEs for the programming languages you use.
If you never attempt to do things the right way, you’ll always be trying to use a stone axe to hammer in a screw.

crumble avatar

No, bare metal AVR is the solution.
You may not noticed it, but these are the raspberry pi pages. So someone will use this computer for such projects.

First of all, stay by your used tools. The quality of the result will be much higher. If this is a fun project whicht runs a few hours a year, who cares about the power consumtion of RAM, and GPU? Learning a new system will need much more power.

Stephen avatar

I’ve always dreamed of making a backyard sized Stargate that moves and turns on. I’d have mist come on as I hit the button on the DHD and a projector would turn on to get the Stargate signature whoosh. Maybe in the future xD. But good job!

Gil avatar

truly fantastic!
excellent job!

Billy avatar

It’s interesting you didn’t approve my comment; just because it states that a single board computer is not the tool for an electronics project. It’s a shame that the raspberry pi organization doesn’t publically recognize this – i thought you were supposed to be about education. No wonder hobbyists tend not to have a clue when there is so much bad information out there – this article adds to it.

Nick avatar

The approval queue here is a mystery to me, but this is normal on their blog, even with 100% clean comments and so on. So it’s unrelated to the content. And of course, comments with links also get queued for approval, just in case.

Now back to your point of view, you could’ve at least share on insight to support your claim. As you can see (they have a video), it’s a functional project. I’ve seen a few Arduino-based stargates, but none have moving chevrons, a fully functional DHD, a screen to emulate the event horizon, nor this much detail in every other bit.

Can you point out to a better implementation of such a project?

Nick avatar

*shared some insight

Billy avatar

So you believe a single board computer running Linux is required to poll 2 dozen buttons, turn on about hundred LEDs, play some sound clips, and turn on 8 motors…this just backs up my statement, “No wonder hobbyists tend not to have a clue when there is so much bad information out there”. The Raspberry Pi can be swapped for a PIC33, which is at a fraction of the cost of the Pi – the project would function exactly the same. If you didn’t want to go that deep because you’re a hobbyist with no much spare time, an Arduino Mega is more than sufficient for this project.
The author has put more effort in to their version of this project than others you’ve seen? That doesn’t validate that a Raspberry Pi is the right tool for the job – if anything it backs up the authors attempt to charge $40 just for the design files – who would pay if it was a perfunctory project.

Nick avatar

I didn’t imply a Pi is mandatory for this kind of project, and you haven’t provided another one on the same level. Ideas are not the same as fully fleshed out projects. But does it even matter to you how much they want for the designs if you’re capable of doing it a lot cheaper? The Pi Zero costs $5 and it’s probably good enough too, but when you have a B model, what’s really the problem using it? I don’t understand your nitpicking.

What if you want to remotely control the Stargate? Can you do that with a PIC33 alone? That Pi can do it. What if you want to dial the gate based on internet requests/events? There are a lot of things that people can do for fun and the Pi enables that. Not everything has to be 100% efficient to be worth doing.

Billy avatar

I am not nitpicking; stating the obvious – wrong tool for the job.

Nick avatar

Still waiting for a “properly” implemented project…

WRWhizard avatar

Billy… It is obvious you prefer the Arduino, But your criticisms fall short because of one major flaw in your argument. For that guy, The RPi is his preferred and best understood tool and most importantly. His project works. If you think the RPi is inferior for this task, you should be praising him for making the project work in spite of the shortcomings of the tool.

Ashley Whittaker avatar

That’s *kind of* right, Nick. First time commenters have to wait for approval and things which look spammy to the filter (aka lots of links, like you said) get held until a human says yes or no. We have humans check through as many times a day as they have time to (between 9-5 weekdays there are more of them).

Joe Harley avatar

Look, I see (some) compelling points in your argument. But I think what you’re failing to see is that: a.) What if you don’t have experience with an Ardunio? b.) Why learn a whole new skill to make an amateur hobbyist project slightly more efficent, the best equipment you can use for hobbyist project is the stuff you have experience with, at least in my view.

Colin avatar

Even though I have never seen the show, seeing this amazed me.

Nelson Jordan avatar

My inner geek is absolutely loving this – what a fantastic model! I haven’t seen Stargate in a long time, but I can remember fighting my sister for the remote to watch it as a kid.

cale avatar

as they say, try, try, try, try, try, try again

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