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NOVA Fab Lab

Make-it in the Fab Lab.

Located in the Trailside Building at Northern Virginia Community College’s Manassas campus, the Fab Lab is a world class, state-of-the-art makerspace available to all NOVA students, faculty, staff, and the greater education community. The Fab Lab’s mission is to define and share a more wholistic experience in the Digital Fabrication arena by providing access to the most advanced fabrication processes, training in 3D modelling, and a foundation in the principals of Design Thinking and creative problem solving.  

You can access the Fab Lab by attending one of our workshops, demonstrations, and special events, or requesting a class collaboration, field trip, or tour. We also provide informal offerings such as our free open lab sessions for personal projects, and bi-annual design challenges and competitions for students. The Fab Lab staff are versed in a myriad of topics such as electronics and coding, operating fabrication equipment, design software, soft circuits, sewing, wood working, robotics, additive manufacturing (3D printing), and more. So, whatever you want to make, we can support you.

Come visit us today, we would love to show you around.

Current Offerings

Programs at the NOVA Fab Lab

NOVA Makers is a membership program, which opens the NOVA Fab Lab to NOVA Students, Faculty and Staff to work on personal projects during our Open Labs.

How does it work?

NOVA Students, Faculty, and Staff

  1. Enroll in the NOVA Makers Course on Canvas.
  2. On Canvas, pass the online Safety Orientation Certification and fill out the release form, which will make you an official member!
  3. Come-in during open lab hours to use machines and equipment. If it is your first time visiting or you need some help, ask a NOVA Fab Lab staff member for assistance.

Membership Fee

NOVA Makers is free for NOVA students, faculty, and staff.

NOVA Makers Hours

Open Lab

Mon, Tue, Wed, & Thu | 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Friday | 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Saturday | 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Fall 2023 sessions are now available on Saturday mornings from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. For full details and registration, visit



September 2nd   
Build a Mini Greenhouse (Wood Working & Vacuum Forming)
September 16th Soft Circuit Creatures (Circuitry & Sewing) 
October 7th  Casting Chocolate Legos (Vacuum Forming)
October 21st Puzzle Picture & Frame (UV Printing & Laser Cutting)
November 4th   3D Print a Monster (Clay Modeling & 3D Printing)
November 18th  T-Shirt & Jewelry (UV Printing & Laser Cutting)
December 2nd   Laser Cut Bird House (Laser Cutting & Painting)
December 16th Animatronics Stuffed Animal (Coding & Microelectronics)


Community Makers provides free access to the NOVA Fab Lab for community members interested in Digital Fabrication and Making with limited access to digital fabrication equipment and training. To be considered for this program, interested individuals can apply online for a limited number of openings.

This program is popular with:

  • Local Educators
  • Local Librarians
  • High School Students (age restricted)
  • Home School Students (age restricted)
  • Interested Volunteers / Mentors

The Fab Lab works with NOVA classes to support projects, lessons, and relevant activities. Support and activities can be provided in-person in the actual lab, virtually, or as a hybrid approach.


Interested in discussing how the lab can support your class? If so, contact the Fab Lab at, 703.530.3505, or submit an interest form.

In this one-week camp, participants will explore various ways to design and make objects. This introduction to fabrication involves using design software, solving design problems, and learning about fabrication tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC routers. These concepts will be applied in a hands-on format in the form of design challenges throughout the week.

Sample Activities     

  • Design a product that converts a common household item into a toy or game
  • Design or revise a product that makes your school life easier


All fabrication camps are at the NOVA Manassas Campus. We are offering transportation to Manassas from our other NOVA Campuses. See dates and location below for transportation:

  • June 26-30 from NOVA Annandale and Loudoun Campuses
  • July 31-August 4 from NOVA Woodbridge and Alexandria Campuses

Register at:

The NOVA Fab Lab offers workshops in Design Thinking and Fabrication to help students learn critical skills such as problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and empathy. Each workshop is 3-hours long, starting at 9:00 a.m. and concluding at noon.

All materials, supplies, tools, instructors, and support staff are provided by the Fab Lab. In addition, each workshops will include a brief tour of the Fab Lab.

The base cost for each workshop is $200, plus a $5 fee per student/participant. Schools or programs that are financially limited may be eligible for free workshops (excluding transportation).

Field Trip Activity Options

Design Thinking: Apollo 13 Challenge

Isolated teams must work together using only walkie-talkies for communication to solve, fabricate, and test a universal problem using limited supplies.

Design Thinking: Launch Vehicle Challenge

Teams design, fabricate, and test custom stomp-rockets to transport a delicate payload to a designated landing zone.

Design Thinking: Animal Design Challenge

Teams must define, design, prototype, and defend a fictional animal able to survive in a designated environment.

For more information or to schedule a field trip, contact the NOVA Fab Lab at or 703.530.3505 or via our Field Trip Request Form .

NOVA Fab Lab Design Challenge - Fall 2023

The challenge for Fall 2023 is to fabricate a one-of-a-kind musical instrument.

The Brief

It is no surprise that creating musical instruments is a recurring theme for STEAM design challenges; making music is FUN, and it necessitates a harmonious blend of engineering, creativity, and craft. The Fab Lab is celebrating this long-established competition and challenging you to fabricate a one-of-kind musical instrument. Your music-making device can be hand crafted from everyday objects, digitally designed, and manufactured through 3D printing or laser cutting, include electronic components, or any of those in combination. Your design must result in a physical product that can be played and tested by our team of judges. Participate as a solo artist or form a musical entourage with up to two additional members to rock out our Fall 2023 Fabrication Challenge!

Important Dates

Sunday, October 1 - Design Submission Portal Opens
Sunday, December 10 - Design Submission Portal Closes

Submit Your Entry

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What qualities make a good musical instrument?

  • To make noise repeatedly and predictably
  • Play scale
  • Tunable to a pitch
  • More than one note or variations of one note
  • Range of volume
  • Interchangeability of parts

What materials can I use?

Practically anything, if it can be safely played and transported. Creative use of materials is included in our judging criteria so it is advised to limit any use of pre-existing instrument parts.

Can I make a replica of an existing instrument?

Technically, yes. But remember to review the judging criteria, nearly a third of your score is based on originality.

How will I demonstrate how to play it?

You will upload a 15-30 sec video submission demonstrating how to play. Mov, mp4

Does physical size of the instrument matter?

Consider how you deliver the instrument to the Fab Lab and design accordingly. Scale has no impact on the judging score.

Can I create multi-piece design? (ex. Drumset)

Sure! You are the creator, but don’t forget about the transporting/delivery part.

Do I have to be a NOVA Community College student to participate?
No. Any student attending a middle school, high school, or college/university in the continental US can participate.

I am a homeschool student, can I participate?
Yes. Any middle school, high school, or college student attending a public, private, or homeschool can participate.

Submission Requirements

All entries must be submitted online at

  1. Documentation of your completed instrument
    1. QTY 3-5: high-quality, still, color, digital images of your finished instrument (jpeg, jpg, tif, tiff, png, pdf)
    2. Preferably on a neutral (white, grey, black) background
    3. Multiple views are suggested (top, front, side, perspective, etc.)
  2. Video documentation demonstrating how to play instrument
    1. 15-30 second (mp4, mov)(160 MB max)
  3. Evidence of fabrication
    1. QTY 3-5: high-quality photos documenting your production and fabrication techniques and process. (jpeg, jpg, tif, tiff, png, pdf)
    2. Should span the process from beginning to end

Judging Criteria

50 points - Creativity/Innovation

30 - Originality of concept
10 - Overall Aesthetic
10 - Resourceful use of materials

30 points - Engineering

10 - Quality of design
10 - Playability
10 - Variations in tone, frequency, pitch

20 points - Craftsmanship

10 - Durability
10 - Quality of construction techniques

Total of 100 Points

Rules & Regulations

  1. The Challenge is open to anyone in middle school, high school, or a post-secondary educational institute within the continental USA.
  2. Participants must be 18 years or older or provide consent by a parent or guardian over the age of 18.
  3. Participation is open to individuals, or teams with no more than 3 members.
  4. Only 1 entry per person is permitted regardless of whether they enter as an individual or a team. If a participant enters one design as an individual, and a second as a team, the individual entry will be disqualified.
  5. The Challenge is not open to; any persons employed as a professional in 3D printing, employees of Northern Virginia Community College, judges or any of their families, and employees and families of the NOVA Annual Design Challenge sponsors.
  6. Judges will select finalists from the online submissions. These finalists will then be asked to deliver and leave their fabricated replicas at the Fab Lab for in-person judging.
  7. Once judging has been completed, an awards ceremony and exhibit of all the physical entries will be held for competitors, winners, VIPs, guests, and judges.
  8. Competitors presenting work that is not their own will be disqualified.

Terms & Conditions

  • Agree to be bound by the decisions of the judges.
  • Warrant that you are eligible to participate.
  • Warrant, to the best of your knowledge, your work is not, and has not been in production or otherwise previously published or exhibited.
  • Warrant neither the work nor its use infringes the intellectual property rights (whether a patent, utility model, functional design right, aesthetic design right, trademark, copyright, or any other intellectual property right) of any other person.
  • Warrant participation shall not constitute employment, assignment or offer of employment, or assignment.
  • Agree participation does not entitle compensation or reimbursement for any costs.
  • Agree Northern Virginia Community College and all affiliates have the right to promote all entries and winners.
  • Winners will be contacted by NOVA Fab Lab staff to get their contact information and any other information needed.
  • Winning Product will be chosen based on the Rules and Requirements.
  • Winning individuals or teams will be required to collect prize(s) at a chosen NOVA campus and agree to be photographed with their winning designs.
  • Winners agree to the following NOVA Fab Lab/NOVA Community College Graphics Release:

I hereby give the right to take, use, publish, display, broadcast, or print – in any media – photographs, slides, digital images, films, and audio or video recordings made in conjunction with the Fab Lab, to the full extent in which I am included. I understand that such sounds, images, and video may be used for instruction, promotion, advertising, and any other lawful purpose.

Questions? Email (use the subject heading "2023 Fabrication Challenge")

Fab Lab Grants

The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored program is open to middle and high school teachers, informal STEM learning professionals, and college faculty. Complex problems require innovative and creative solutions. Design thinking is the key to challenging assumptions and approaching problem solving in a collaborative, interdisciplinary and non-linear way.

Design Thinking Fellows Will:

  • Complete a 5-day Professional Learning (PL) Institute in Spring 2023 at NOVA's Fab Lab.
  • Practice teaching PL topics at a 1-week fabrication summer camp.
  • Participate in the Fall 2023 Fab Lab Design Challenge.
  • Create lesson plans for sharing to digital repository focused on design thinking and digital fabrication.
  • Receive a $2,200 stipend for participation.

Applications for the 2023 cohort have already been accepted. 2024 program information sessions and application will be made available in November 2023. 

Sign up for our newsletter to keep up with program announcements.

This NSF-sponsored incubator is open to any NOVA student with a preference for students program-placed in IET, Business, or Art. During this spring and summer program, students will work in small interdisciplinary groups to develop and pitch an idea for a new product or service. This is an opportunity for students to learn collaboration and communication skills, develop an entrepreneurial mindset, and expand their professional networks.

Selected students will:

  • Attend 6 spring entrepreneurship workshops to develop their initial product idea
  • Spend early summer fabricating their products in the NOVA Fab Lab
  • Formally pitch their product to a group of regional entrepreneurs and professionals
  • Receive a total stipend of $3,000 for participation

Applications for the 2023 cohort have already been accepted. 2024 program information sessions and application will be made available in November 2023.

Sign up for our newsletter to keep up with program announcements.


See Fabrication Resources below:

See Fabrication Resources below:

The staff at NOVA’s Fab Lab wanted to do their part during the COVID-19 crisis by manufacturing DIY face shields for the citizens on the front lines. When the Fab Lab closed in March 2020 (until re-opening in July 2021), we knew our portable equipment would struggle to keep up with demand, so we designed two different versions that could be made simultaneously on different machines. 

  • Version 1 appropriates the excellent Budmen™ design which can be made on our portable 3D printers.
  • Version 2 is our own design created entirely from cast acrylic and cut by laser.

By adopting and creating two different designs we were able to significantly increase our production goals. Our PPE utilizes press-in clips from waste materials, eliminating the need for glue.

Both designs are completely open source and free to use. See our PPE website steminar for design files, images, videos, and more information on making PPE Face Shields.

Equipment at the Fab Lab

Fab Lab Equipment

To request a tour, email and use the subject “Tour Request”


For questions email Fab Lab Team at