Areas of Interest
There are a handful of fundamental rules we hold as truths these days, such as failure being a prerequisite to success, popping bubble wrap is fun, and the fact that Space is really, really cool. However, I believe that space does not get the appreciation it deserves most of the time. Having an interest in other domains like health and politics, I understand how space isn’t as invasive of a domain as the other two and how it may not seem applicable in daily life. However, I genuinely believe if interest in space was developed earlier in someone’s life, more interest and awareness in space will occur.
Interest in this domain began pretty early on for me, starting with reading picture books with images of the solar system to writing an essay on why more money should be invested into NASA. Upon writing that essay, I discovered just how little funding NASA is receiving compared to other agencies and how much innovation comes with exploring space. Things like satellite navigation, memory foam, among other things were invented because of space. Realistically, the number of things that exist because of space travel is enough to pay for the costs that go into things. Not to mention, expanding the knowledge of mankind and getting cool background images for your computer are things you just can’t put a price on.
If more people were aware of how cool space is, there would be an increase in the amount of money that goes into NASA, which will allow us to inhabit other planets and gain better data on our universe. However, to increase the funding that NASA receives, you have to develop an interest in space exploration.
Since I am making an app designed for kids, I have to make sure that any ads that may appear as a banner have to be appropriate. Ads that are even a bit inappropriate are enough to distract a kid. The good news is NASA’s data is open source, meaning as long as I give credits to NASA, I can use all the information provided by them. I want to start off with the United States first, which means I do not have to worry about other countries' policies.
Unlike most other apps about space that are targeted towards kids, this app will be free! The only way the app will make money is with add banners, optional ads, and donations. A lot of apps that are free are unusable because of just how many ads appear, which distracts from the app itself. Since I’m trying to make a fun education app, it is important to limit the number of distractions.
The app’s primary goal is to educate and drive curiosity. With that being said, there are many kids who may not have access to expensive IOS devices or computers. To be more inclusive, the app will eventually need to reach the google play store and be able to run on the cheapest tablets on the market.
Technologies can only enhance my app idea. Imagine if you were able to explore space using a VR headset and how much that will impact learning. If there was a way to add VR into the app idea, that would make it even better. I don’t see other technologies causing this app idea to be obsolete, but I will keep looking in case there is.
There is not a lot of apps that teach space-related things to kids in a fun and insightful way. Every other app I found is paid, and that is really discouraging because the kid downloading the app would rather play a free game than spend money to potentially be ripped off. The app would mainly function as a game, which is the main difference than say the NASA app. Apps like that one simply show updates and information about NASA missions and discoveries, along with cool wallpapers. An informational app about space that functions as a game and keeps the user curious is ultimately the goal here and has simply not been made yet.
On paper, my app idea makes sense and it fits within the domain’s competitive landscape. However, it is important to conduct user interviews to gain further insight into what my app should include and not include. I included the following questions:
Do you think that the youth are encouraged or discouraged to pursue careers in STEM?
Do you think space education is important?
How did your interest in Tech begin?
I believe my questions are non-biased because they do not suggest that Space education is neither good nor bad, rather the questions are structured to receive answers that can both help my app or deem it useless. The reason why I designed questions that are not biased is to get real answers and structure my app based on the given answers.
The people who did my interview are two college students who are majoring in a STEM field. Gary, the first person I interviewed, gave a very interesting point of view for the first question. Gary said that kids today are less likely to say that they want to be an astronaut compared to kids from previous generations. Kids are also more likely to say that they want to be YouTubers or Twitch streamers than streamers, and this is a well-documented fact. Of course, an education app will not be as popular as a social media app, but apps like Duolingo and Khan Academy are examples of educational apps that are very successful.
What are successful educational apps doing that cause them to be successful? Both Khan Academy and Duolingo have a reward system that makes the user feel like they have achieved something, which makes the user more engaged and more likely to continue learning. I plan to implement a similar reward system for my space education app. Another thing that both apps have is an easy-to-use user interface. If I want my app to be easy to use, the app can’t go overboard with features and the design should be minimalistic. It is enough effort to consciously decide to learn a new skill as a kid, so it is important to make it as rewarding and enjoyable as possible while also keeping it informative.
Jose, the second person I interviewed, had something interesting to say about the importance of space education. Jose stated that the importance of space education stems from the importance of critical thinking skills in our society. He went on by saying that we need more people with good critical thinking abilities to innovate and push society forward. I never thought of it like that prior, but it makes sense. I began to realize that the app can’t be heavily game-based, but it needs to instead be based on education with some game mechanics for it to not be discouraging. However, I learned that there needs to be a focus on developing critical thinking skills to make my product a more applicable one towards a STEM career.
My Product Idea:
After gaining feedback from user interviews, the next step for my product development journey is to state my idea in simple terms, and here it is:
“I help grade school students who are interested in STEM achieve interest in space and develop critical thinking skills through a mobile application.”
There is currently nothing on the market that is near as educational or interactive when it comes to space education, since they are either just games like “Astronomy for Kids” by Vito Technology where they only allow you to see planets and learn cool facts about them, or they are just an app where you read the text and see some cool pictures like the NASA app or “Space Science” by in tech education. What most apps in the market lack are critical thinking skills that encourage users to further explore a topic or decide to research a certain field of interest even more. Because no space education app has done what I plan to do with my app, there is potential for my application to get hundreds, even thousands of downloads.
To further aid the development of my product idea, I made two user journeys. User journeys are a user’s perspective on their experience of the app. In the case of my app, a user journey typically starts with the first login of the app and it talks about their experience after using the app for a period of time.
User Journey #1:
“My youngest daughter is doing really well in her 5th-grade math class, and she told me how much she loves space, so I introduced her to the app CosmoForce and she’s hooked! Making an account is easy because it links to your Gmail, which is always convenient. She began by watching an introductory video and making her character, which then boarded the spaceship where she got to learn about different solar systems. She can’t stop talking about how cool black holes and neutron stars are, and I am excited about her future!”
User Journey #2:
“I am a middle school student who is entering high school next year and I wanted to learn more about space before I begin my freshman year. I downloaded CosmoForce and it all came naturally to me! At first, the concepts were simple, but as I visited more galaxies, I began to use the math that I learned in Geometry to figure out what size wheels the rover needs to ride on mars. Who would have thought that the Mars Rover was so huge! I am currently level 26, and I got my friend to download the app and we help each other with the missions after school!”
After writing two User Journies, I have a better idea of how I want to look like and what I want it to do, and I will explore that more by Wireframing the app.
In short, a wireframe is how you want the skeleton of your website or app to look like. Here are some examples of how a typical Wireframe looks like:
Now that I have a couple of wireframes, I plan to add more wireframes and illustrate exactly how I want my app to look like from top to bottom. There is definitely a lot of work ahead, but I will take it one step at a time.