In Spring 2022, my cohort from the UNT MA in Interaction Design program and I worked on a semester-long project to create an innovative exhibit that tells the story of NASA’s Astro-1 mission at the Smithsonian. We worked with retired NASA scientists engaged in the Astro Restoration Project to better understand Astro-1 and envision an innovative, engaging science museum experience.
As a result of our hard work, we generated 13 storyboards of experiencing the Astro-1 exhibition that's meant to:
- Inform visitors about science concepts (related to UV and X-ray generally) and Astro-1 (specifically)
- Engage the human senses of museum visitors
- Spark curiosity in museum goers
About this project:
Facilitators: Prof. Brian Sullivan and Prof. Cassini Nazir
Collaborators: Prof. Ruth West and her class,
Stakeholders:
[Retired NASA engineers] Mike Haddad, Elaine and Richard Hamner, and Maynette Smith. 
Tools Used: Mural, Slack, Figma, Keynote, Google Slides, Adobe Suite, and Google Forms.​​​​​​​
My Contributions:
Designed and administered museum experience surveys to obtain rich insights and understand different museum visitors' motivations.
Spearheaded the research synthesis and layout design for our six unique museum visitor personas.
Illustrated two storyboards to bring our big ideas into life.
Captured our research and design process through 500+ photographs and time lapse videos.
1) Explore Uncharted Territories
Diving Right Into the World of Astro-1
To design for an Astro-1 exhibition, we started with rigorous research activities that encompassed the history of Astro-1, the significance of this mission, the science of UV and X-Ray, and what Astro-1 discovered and achieved.
The “Astro Observatory” was developed as a system of telescopes consisting of 3 ultraviolet (UV) telescopes and 1 X-Ray telescope.
Astro-1 History Key Findings
My team was specifically in charge of researching the history of Astro-1, and here are the key insights that I helped uncover:
- Astro-1 was the first space mission that was exclusively dedicated to astronomy.
- 4 years before Astro-1 launched in 1990, Challenger space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after liftoff in 1986. The accident devastated NASA's and the public's faith in space travel.
- Originally scheduled to launch right after Challenger, Astro-1 was postponed, and NASA implemented several actions to ensure its safety.
- Astro-1 had to succeed. And it did.

By taking simultaneous observations, Astro-1 was able to look farther into space than ever before and gave the world a reason to dream again.

Composite View of the Crab Nebula. Images like this can’t be captured from Earth because there is far too much interference. They can only be captured from beyond our atmosphere.

Interviewing NASA Engineers
Besides performing secondary research on the history and impact of Astro-1, our cohort also interviewed several NASA engineers who shared insights into the Astro-1’s mission.
My teammate Jasmin Yearby, Kris Ma, and I had the pleasure of interviewing Maynette Smith, who worked on the Safety and Mission Assurance of Astro-1 project. She expanded on the masterpiece of engineering to involved
2) Empathize with Our Users

Meah interviewing Nick Baczewski, Planetarium Presenter at the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History

A Human-centric Approach
Besides understanding the Astro-1 mission itself, we also needed to understand for whom we are designing this museum for; in other words, our users. Here are some research activities that I, along with my cohort, performed:
- Empathy immersion activities that helped me empathize with different disabilities and design a more accessible museum experience.
- Contextual interviews with museum goers and staffs at science museums.
- Synthesized my findings from 6 existing research sources on museum visitors' experience and motivations.
- 20+ interviews with different types of museum goers and stakeholders.
Contextual Interview Survey
To understand our users better, my team and I visited the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History to interview museum goers and staffs while documenting our own experience at the museum.
Literature Review
In addition to our primary research, I was also in charge of developing the personas for the Astro-1 museum experience. Along with my classmates Jasmin and Saami, I dug through existing research on museum visits, synthesized our findings, and developed 6 unique and multi-dimensional personas.
Our Persona Spectrum System
Typical persona research involved one-dimensional findings of a specific user group that doesn't address the fluid and overlapping nature of user's motivations and goals. That was not enough for us. So, we developed a spectrum system that shed lights on the unique motivations and goals that each of the 6 persona superset has under different circumstances—for example, visiting alone vs. visiting with family, as a local vs, as a tourist.
To see more details of our personas, click on the button below and navigate to page 114.
‟Museum going is a complex and deeply personal experience that is connected to our individual sense of identity.” --Dr. John Falk, Expert on Museum Experience
Service Design Blueprint
The Service Design Blueprint covers different stakeholders at a given service design project, their actions, pain points, and untapped opportunities at each stage of the service.

A time lapse video that I recorded to show how we mapped out the Service Design Blueprint for this project.

Focusing on the User's Journey
While the Service Design Blueprint gives us a bigger picture of all the front-end and back-end users, actors, and stakeholders involved in a service design, we also developed a museum goer's Journey Map that detailed the different actions that they might take at different stages of a museum experience.
Combining that with our persona research, we identified pain points, gaps, and opportunities that help inform our designs to serve all types of museum goers.
3) Envision a New Experience
Co-Creation and Idea Generations
Well-informed by our research activities, we dived into generating big ideas to envision innovative ways of experiencing an Astro-1 museum experience.
We performed 3 workshops with more than 30 people for this project. We explored new technology such as AR/VR, uncovered new ways to visualize data, and much more.
This led to over 250 big ideas and informed our creative envisioning process.
13 Hand-picked Storyboards
We did a lot of user research and what we present here are the feedback from real-people, its not just ideas based on our imagination.
All the storyboards you’ll see will make the invisible interestingimmersivemeaningfulfelt and delightful.
Selected Storyboards

Video recording of our final presentation. Video setup by professor Cassini Nazir and Saami Wally.

4) Exclusives and What I Learned
Future Vision
Review: Obtain feedback on our current storyboards. Refine the storyboards.
Commit: Professor Nazir will work with stakeholders on identifying and finalizing future actions.
Develop: Establish research and development teams who might iterate on the exhibit.
What I Have Learned
This is my first time working on a project at this large of a scale and with so many people's hands on the deck. Needless to say, I have learned a lot from this experience. Here are some of my key learnings.
The Only Constant Is Change
Change happened throughout this project. What we thought was the plan could crumble within half an hour and we needed to come up with an alternative plan. Through this experience, I learned to be proactive about communication and collaboration.
Students Ask for Permission, Professionals Take Charge
My professors Brian and Cassini truly pushed us to think and act like young professionals (rather than mere students) in this project. After working on this project I gained confidence in my ability to not only contribute to a team, but also lead a team. I took charge of several initiatives during this project, which included capturing our work through time lapse videos, diving into persona development, coordinating and conducting interviews, and more.

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