A children's e-learning game to engage them to learn more about space exploration by teaching them about NASA JPL missions.

UX/UI Designer

Bryan Phan, Tim Pham

Adobe XD, Illustrator

Competitive Analysis, User Persona, Wireframing, Prototyping, Visual Design, Usability Testing

May 2021 - June 2021
(2 weeks)


Space is a subject that engages children and encourages them to ask questions about the world around them. Through learning about space, children can apply and build on concepts they have already learned and develop an understanding of the vast world beyond Earth. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is humanity's leading center for exploring where humans cannot yet reach.

What is Astro? 

  • A space education gaming app that is targeted towards children from the 6th to 8th grade
  • Users are space bunnies that are able to travel from planet to planet learning new topics about space. The goal of the game is to help the game's mascot and player's bunny leave for a new planet.
  • To learn these topics, users watch video presentations, solve math problem through shooting meteors, and play other interactive games.
  • Includes achievements from completing missions and an add your friend feature to create a sense of reward and competition.


Create an educational app that helps students learn about space through fun and interactive games. Astro allows players to explore new worlds and discover videos, mini-games and topics about space.

How did we actually get there? 

Understanding the Problem Space

Because of the time constraints of this project, we conducted two folds of research, secondary research and a competitive analysis with other companies in the problem space. We started with secondary research to user interviews to the effectiveness of gamification in education and identify motivations of students. A competitive analysis was then conducted to analyze other possible competitors that offer a similar service and identify any patterns or trends.

Research Goals

Secondary Research - Gamification

Gamification theory in education states that students learn best when they have goals, targets, and achievements involving game-based elements such as: 

The main objectives in Gamification

From our research on gamification, we understand that there are some main objectives of it:

Is Gamification effective? 

When education and gaming mix, it allows students to continue to be interested in their education and give them more control in their learning. Some benefits include: 

Secondary Research - Motivations of Students

For the scope of this project, we focused on 6th to 8th grade students to determine their motivations when it comes to learning. Students can be motivated by a variety of factors within their learning environment. Some key factors include: 1) Attribution (how do I feel about it), 2) Goal (what will I achieve out of it), and 3) Self-determination (can I do it on my own and well related to my peers).

"Studies of students' goal orientations generally find that the adoption of task goals is associated with more adaptive patterns of learning than is the adoption of ability goals, including the use of more effective cognitive strategies, a willingness to seek help when it is needed, a greater tendency to engage in challenging tasks, and more positive feeling about school and oneself as a learner" - Motivation and Middle School Students by Lynley Hicks Anderman and Carol Midgley

Competitive Analysis

Gaming in education has been around for quite awhile and each company does it differently. We reviewed three services, Playground Physics, Google Earth, and NASA Visual Explorer. Below we listed the strengths and weaknesses between each of the services, which will later help inform our design decisions.

Defining the User


We used the data from the secondary research and competitive analysis to create a persona, Samantha Lopez, to represent a part of our target users. By creating a fictional persona, we were able to personify the needs and wants of the target users into a single person. As a middle schooler, Samantha wants a way to interact with engaging educational content because she finds her classwork boring. For the scope of this project, we had to cut down on some processes because of the time constraint.

The Inspiration

To get a better sense of game design, we looked for inspiration from other games. We focused on games that are targeted for younger audiences that are either educational, MMO style, or both. By looking at these games, we understood that have the ability to customize, gain achievements, and have some sort of NPC was crucial in making the game fun for our target users.

Low-Fidelity Wireframes

Using our research and looking at our inspiration, we started building out the key pages needed for our persona to complete her goal. Astro is built as a tablet application because our research showed that these middle scholars today are using tablets to play their games. Our goal for the design was to make it easy and simple to set up.

Account Login Page: Users are able to sign into their account or sign up for an account.
Topic Exploration Page: Users are able to browse different topics and choose to learn ones they haven't explored yet.
NPC Topic Page: The NPC "talks" with the user to choose a challenge to reinforce the learning for that specific topic. Users must clear all challenges before moving on to the next planet.
Challenge Page: An example of one of the challenges the user would have to go through to complete their space exploration. Challenges range from math to trivia.


After an initial round of usability testing off of the low-fidelity wireframes, changes were made to the current design. Building off of the low-fidelity wireframe, we built the high fidelity wireframe and the first iteration prototype. Below is a video of the final design.

Learning & Takeways

It was a fun challenge designing with another teammate remotely to work on a project with a two week deadline. Working with another, we learned to respectively consider each other's opinions and offer critique to reasons why we would design certain things for our respective sections. Because we had a time constrain, we had to skip some steps in the design process. If we had more time, we would want to do more user research, specifically user interviews, in the early stages to understand what middle school students are looking for in a game. We also wanted to do more rounds of usability testing after completing our prototype. We had one teacher try out the application to determine if it's something students would want, but having more would allow us to get other perspectives.

What went well?

  1. Working with another designer and designing a project that was well-received.
  2. Insightful secondary research and competitive analysis.
  3. Creating a project that reflected the theme and added some fun with addition of the NPC.

Areas for improvements

  1. Some more frames can be added to overall add to the user journey because we could be missing out on crucial steps the user might take.
  2. Looking more at the achievements section and see how users would respond to that.
  3. Understanding more about education and gaming and seeing how we could better design for that.

What is the plan moving forward?

  1. More usability testing and feedback for Astro.
  2. Adding more types of "games" when learning about the different topics of space.
  3. Working on the styling of the design to make it feel like a real game.