A gaming iPad App for middle schoolers to learn about NASA Jet Propulsory Laboratory missions through STEM-related activities.
iOS - Research - Wireframes - User Interface - Usability Testing - Prototyping
My Role: UX Researcher, UI Designer
Timeline: 1 week
Project Type: Hackathon
Client: Adobe Creative Jam & NASA
Tools: Adobe XD, Figma, Pen & Paper
Team: Josi M., Camille D.
Houston, we have a problem! NASA and Adobe gave us a mission to help kids aged 11 to 13 learn more about space exploration by teaching about a single or multiple NASA JPL missions. One main constraint: it should be an engaging tablet app.
Take a peek at the kickoff session below. (Yes, it was as exciting as it looks!)
To start off, we needed to understand how to keep kids this age interested. Our first assumption was that they would rather spend their free time having fun instead of studying or learning complex concepts.
That's when we set our high-level goals:
• Make NASA JPL missions a familiar and fun topic
• Teach relevant skills to kids without them even noticing it
SpaceRox takes kids and their friends into actual NASA JPL missions where they need to complete goals through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematic) activities in order to achieve the mission’s objective.
We started with the unique leverage of getting spontaneous insights from my partner's daughter. We quickly learned that Netflix, Youtube, Roblox, WhatsApp, Messages and Zoom were the top-mind apps for kids around 11 to 13 years old.
We dove into secondary research about the given challenge, where we discovered interesting facts:
Deeper insights from the kids
Our next step was to talk to five middle-schoolers to get an in-depth perspective of their behavior, frustrations, goals, and motivations, focusing on NASA and STEM topics.
Identifying pain points was a big constraint for us. In addition, the nature of the brief we received made it challenging to create strategic questions to listen for frustrations. So we navigated this stage by observing the nuances of the answers and their body language, which led us to interesting insights:
To help us delineate and focus on a specific target user and their needs, I crafted Sophie Johnson to illustrate our user persona.
Reframing the Problem
In a nutshell, we discovered that middle schoolers are motivated by playful and interactive environments, they like to be challenged and are excited about NASA but lack further exploration of STEM.
So we asked:
Sketch & Decide
Before we got our pen and paper, we collected inspiration on services and products to explore components, features, interactions and how well they'd work, according to Sophie's profile.
Converging the Ideation
We collected a wide range of inspirations - from UI to concepts of STEM activity screens. To ensure we were targeting our goal, we decided to define the main task flow before sketching possibilities.
Task Flow Diagram:
Time to get Messy
With the task flow as our north star and the UI inspiration we gathered previously, we felt confident about putting ideas into hand-drawn shapes.
We sketched different versions for some screens and decided on features/components voting utilizing heated map - and backed up with our research. Then, we split the creation of the wireframes by topic affinity, and I decided to focus on the STEM activities and avatar creation screens.
Prototype & Testing
We created the first wireframe screens to validate the layout and usability with our target users. Overall, all 3 testers completed the tasks, found the app easy to navigate and liked to learn and play simultaneously. However, we also found some issues:
The Final Product
In an era where kids spend hours streaming and playing with their friends, SpaceRox immerses them into space where they can be part of NASA JPL missions while playing with their friends.
An Intuitive and Inviting iPad App
Predominant dark theme and bright colors to mimic the look and feel of the space. From here, kids can choose between watching live images of space, play missions or explore space images.
Real NASA JPL Missions with friends
Playing and interacting with friends, middle schoolers will learn about space exploration through real NASA JPL missions.
Learning STEM in an Interactive Way
In order to complete missions, kids need to solve STEM challenges that involve problem-solving related to the mission's theme.
Although part of a Hackathon project, I enjoy thinking about business strategy. If this were a real project, I would measure the success of this app by analyzing:
Retrospective and Learnings
This was one of the most fun, interesting and challenging projects I've worked on.
• As a huge astronomy fan, learning more and working on a NASA project was an invaluable experience for me.
• Designing for children, utilizing a new tool and on a new device brought a rollercoaster of emotions - fun but uncomfortable all the time.
• Trusting the process wasn't that easy - we had to deal with the competitive Hackathon pressure, the overflow of ideas, and so many constraints while focusing on designing for a research-backed, feasible and desirable product.
• Communication + Time Management is key - having organized and transparent communication since Day 1 was essential for the success of this project. Thank you, Camille, for the commitment and passion we shared that week.
Thank you for reading :)