Frequently Asked Questions

How do you capture new ideas in the STEAM Innovation Lab?

Ideas for new technologies or new applications are captured through interviews, questionnaires and/or in a google form. All of the ideas are reviewed and shared with other lab participants, online with the pubic or with key researchers when appropriate.

What stations are currently in place in the STEAM Innovation Lab?

Stations in the lab are interchangeable depending on user needs and technology being explored. Stations can quickly be replaced with new stations depending on the type of technology and/or projects being explored. Currently the physical lab at Goddard Space Flight Center has multiple stations that include: Design and Fabrication - 3D printing, Design and Fabrication - 2D Printing, Coding and Electronics, Mobile Sensors, Virtual Reality, Gamification, Optics Exploration, Sonification, Touch Screen Electronics.

What is an Exploration Idea Profile?

Exploration Idea Profiles are short 2-page snapshots of a new or modified idea. They are developed through a guided process involving a step-by-step guide/worksheet where participants are invited to briefly describe their main idea or innovation, how the idea connects to NASA content, required resources, the audience or need that the idea addresses, and connections to science, technology, engineering, the arts and/or mathematics. Profiles are meant to provide the reader with basic information about a new idea to explore as opposed to providing a finished activity or set of instructions to follow.

How do we connect with the lab?

To see updates about the lab follow our twitter @NASASpaceSciEdu and our blog at where you can leave comments on the blog and respond on Twitter.

What is 2D Printing?

2D printers have the ability to produce die cut paper surfaces that can be manipulated into 3D objects.

What kind of machine is used for 2D Printing?

For 2D printing (paper cutting), we use Silhouette Cameo.

What kind of software is used for 2D printing?

To prepare for paper-cutting projects we use the Silhouette Studio and the Fab@School Maker Studio softwares.

What is 3D printing?

3D printing is a process of creating volumetric objects from digital, computer generated models. Generally, this is done by depositing multiple thin layers of a substance onto a platform.

What kind of machine do you use for 3D Printing?

For 3D printing we use a multitude of different machines including the Makergear M2, MakerBot replicator 5th gen, MakerBot mini and Printrbot Simple.

What kind of software do you use to design models for 3D Printing?

To design for 3D Printing we use Tinkercad and SolidWorks.

How does NASA use 3D printing?

NASA uses 3D printed objects as tools, models, and operational components in instrumentation and machinery.

What kind of slicer do you use for 3D Printing?

The current slicer we are using for 3D Printing is Simplify 3D, but there are plenty of free options including Cura.

What is Virtual Reality and how does it work?

Virtual Reality is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment that is displayed to the user through a head-mounted display in such a way that the user is surrounded and immersed by the simulation. Virtual reality works by creating two separate views of the simulation and displaying those views to each eye of the user; which creates the illusion of depth. Furthermore, the head-mounted display is tracked in 3D space, allowing the simulation to translate all of that motion to the display completing the illusion to the user that they are inside the simulation. In some of the more modern iterations of VR other parts of the body are tracked, allowing the user to interact with the virtual surroundings.

What do you use to view Virtual Reality?

There are several ways to view virtual reality content. The most cost effective way to begin is with a smartphone and one of the many inexpensive mobile headsets on the market, such as Google Cardboard, Daydream, or Gear VR. If you're looking for a more compelling experience you should use a personal computer and purchase one of the many consumer headsets such as HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Odyssey, or the Dell Visor. Make sure your PC meets the hardware requirements for the headset you choose. Almost all of these headsets requires a powerful graphics card, fast CPU, and plenty of ram.

How can I make my own Virtual Reality application?

Using a game engine like Unity or Unreal Engine is the easiest way to create your own Virtual Reality content. Creating your own application will require you and your team to have some programming experience, knowledge in asset creation (3D objects, texturing etc) and game/level design. A single person can create their own simple VR application using a game engine and the free assets that come with it.

What is augmented reality and how does it work?

Augmented reality is the visual superposition of virtual objects or environments onto real world spaces.

What do you use to view augmented reality?

Augmented reality can be viewed directly on computer displays or through AR visors.

What microcomputing units are used in the STEAM Innovation Lab?

We currently have a variety of microcomputting units including RaspberryPi, Arduino Uno and Microbit.

Which coding languages are used in STEAM Innovation Lab?

For different projects, we use different languages including Python, C++, C#, and Javascript.

Why is it important to place a variety of technologies in one space?

The STEAM Innovation Lab is more than a collection of individual technology application stations. It is a concept; a mechanism for people to create new technology education approaches, driven by our broad-based space science content resources. It provides an opportunity for users to blend together these technologies for greater impact. It is the interconnectedness of these technologies within a NASA space science context that makes this approach powerful.

What are Exploration Stations?

Exploration Stations are designated areas in the lab where similar technologies are grouped together. One might think of them as categories where similar technologies and tools exist. For instance, the Design and Fabrication-3D Printing station currently has 3 different types of 3D printers, recommended design software, access to a large screen monitor and sample projects. Access to the station is open to multiple teams and projects.

What microcomputing units are used in the STEAM Innovation Lab?

We currently have a variety of microcomputting units including RaspberryPi, Arduino Uno and Microbit.