August 2021 - December 2021
At NASA Xplore, we help students learn about science by immersing them in the scientific discoveries on Mars. Students go on missions to learn content and practice topics through quizzes and games curated by NASA scientists. At any point of their journey, they can reach out to fellow classmates and educators through the chat feature.

Remmy Sharma Yongtae Park Jinyao Yang Emily Kim (UCI) Noor Ali (UCB)


UI/UX Game Design EdTech


UX Design

I was invited to join a team of USC students for a semester-long project that allowed outside org collaborators. Under a prompt from a NASA representative, our team was tasked to create an educative app that would help school students learn more about space exploration on Mars.  Xplore helps students learn scientific concepts by engaging them in NASA's work on Mars.


Students are not as engaged in STEM fields and find STEM content ‘boring’ due to a lack of curiosity towards scientific concepts.


• Most STEM-related resources tend to be unappealing to students and make them disinterested in science.

• Teachers are unable to find avenues that help students show engagement and interest in science

Our Solution.


Our PM broke down our project into three phases. She wanted to focus on the user research aspect of this project so that our design was deeply reflective of user needs as well as stakeholder requirements. By giving ourselves time to understand our potential users along with aligning with the content NASA wanted students to learn, we were able to amass a thorough body of insights before starting our design process.


When we started the project, we came up with research questions that would guide our design process. We interviewed students, teachers and parents near the USC locality. Here are some questions we were interested in asking and the important insights we found.

• How do you feel about science concepts taught in class? (For Students)
• What kind of educational application do teachers like to use? (For Teachers)
• How can we generate your child's interest in our app? (For Parents)


After conducting user interviews, we found that a lot of students struggled with STEM content as they found it boring and monotonous. Even though students enjoyed science shows and movies, they felt that education was separate from entertainment and found it boring. A lot of students commented they would rather play games than study science. Our interviews with teachers revealed that they wanted an application that would help them understand their class performance along with engaging interest in the topics they teach. Parents talked about using trendy designs and symbols to generate their children's interest in otherwise boring content.


Each team in our class was asked to come up with a video pitch to present in class. For the pitch, we primarily focused on presenting an empathy video that showcased a teacher's perspective.
Initially, our app was called Cosmonaut but our stakeholders asked us to change the name due to the political conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Here you can see me play the role of a teacher.


To understand the problem space we were exploring, we investigated companies like TerraGenesis, Galactic Genius, and Brain Pop. An important competitor was Terra Genesis as they were educating students about scientific concepts by challenging them to successfully terraform different planets. Users are part of different factions as they race to terraform multiple planets. This application used gaming techniques to pique student's interest in STEM concepts.


We created user personas to help shape our product strategy and accompany us during future usability testing sessions. From the insights generated via research, we were able to develop three user personas to reflect our different potential users.


Using all the important concepts we gathered from our research insights and competitive analysis, we decided to conduct affinity mapping to further categorize our ideas and create connections between features and common themes. Game theme was a central insight generated from our research. We were interested in exploring how applications like Busuu or Lumosity used gaming techniques to help users learn and memorize content.

After conducting affinity mapping, we worked on a work-impact chart that would help us narrow our focus on the important concepts we generated by taking importance and feasibility into account. Three most important and feasible themes were the gaming approach to education and competition.

We created user journey maps to help us construct a visual picture of our user's experience as they traverse through different touchpoints. If you open the link below, you will find three proto-personas along with their journey maps.

Click here to view Proto Personas & Journey Mapping


After conducting research, we wanted to spend time ideating our design by first sketching (Crazy 8s) and then proceeding to wireframes. Our priority through our design was getting feedback for each stage of prototyping. We wanted to create a fun gaming environment for kids along with a strong channel of communication between students and teachers.


Our wireframes were focused on motivating students to perform well and giving them points to update their avatars. For educators, we wanted to create an overview of student performance where teachers could also track score history for individual students. We created a map section so students could access missions from location pointers in order to imbue an adventure theme for the student experience.


During our first user testing session we learned that a lot of student users had trouble with the map section to access games and they found the contrast was too low. We also found that students were disinterested in the avatar system and were more interested in machines. An educator suggested shifting focus to machines and upgrading them for hints through missions. Teachers believed the dashboard was confusing and wished to see an inforgraphic showing class performance over time along with assigned missions. Students asked to expand chat not only to teachers but to other classmates as well.


After receiving feedback we decided to re-create the flow chart for the student experience and integrated our findings from the user testing session. We wanted to create four distinct sections: Home (Where all missions are located), Community (Where the chat feature is located), Machines (Where upgrades are possible), and Profile for personal information and settings.


We also re-designed the flowchart for the teacher experience focusing on a Dashboard where class average could be viewed, a Community where teachers could chat with students, and Missions where teachers could assign quizzes to students and view their performance and Profile for personal information and settings.


After collecting feedback and organizing our insights, we were able to create the next prototype with a more clear understanding of students' needs and priorities.


Stakeholders gave generally positive feedback during our presentation. Educators really appreciated how versatile the community page was and liked that students could share mission results with other classmates and teachers. A NASA representative really liked the machines page and how we were incorporating different rovers in the missions. A general area of improvement indicated by critique was the quiz section where stakeholders indicated design could be improved.


Through this process, I was able to form invaluable bonds with my team members and learn from their diverse skill sets. During our process evaluation, we realized that there were some areas where we experienced setbacks. We should have designated more time for designing wireframes and conducting open card sorting during the research phase. Overall, this process was really enjoyable as we were able to spend time with NASA educators to learn about their vision and learn to incorporate the same with educator and student needs. The journey was challenging but we thoroughly enjoyed it.

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