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NOVA Fab Lab

We Do STEM at the NOVA Fab Lab

The NOVA Fab Lab is located at NOVA Community College’s Manassas campus. The lab provides hands-on support to NOVA’s Engineering Technology degree and hands-on STEM opportunities for college students, staff, and community members. The Fab Lab Makerspace provides workshops, demonstrations, project collaborations with NOVA classes, tours, field trips, and special events to help enhance STEM learning and develop STEM skills. The lab provides a creative space to learn about a myriad of topics such as electronics and coding, how to operate fabrication equipment, use of design software, e-textiles/e-fashion, wood working, robotics, additive manufacturing (3D printing), and more.


Programs at the NOVA Fab Lab

3D Printing & Design

Six-session | Saturdays: 3/12, 3/26, 4/9, 4/23, 5/14, & 5/28 | 11am-1pm

This series is for beginners looking to explore digital design and physical prototyping through 3D Printing. These sessions include detailed training on different Computer Aided Design (CAD) software including TinkerCAD and OnShape (both are free and accessible after the sessions).  Participants will use their new CAD skills to solve design problems and 3D print their solutions including designing and 3D printing a solar car frame.  Ideally, participants will attend all six sessions for an optimal learning experience. However, registration can occur after the first session and staff members will do their best to accommodate.

EXPERIENCE LEVEL:  Beginners with little to no experience using TinkerCAD, OnShape, and/or 3D Printing.
AGE:  5th grade to adult (college students, educators, and community members)

REGISTER AT https://campscui.active.com/orgs/SySTEMicSolutions?season=3047445&session=54733837

Makerspace Machine Training - NOVA Faculty & Staff

This series provides a hands-on introduction to these four Makerspace machines that are available at the NOVA Fab Lab on the Manassas Campus: 

  • Large format printer/cutter
  • UV flatbed printer
  • Plastic thermoforming center
  • CNC mill

Small group instruction will include a conceptual overview of the technology and hands-on exercises involving machine operation. These sessions provide an opportunity to learn about technology that can be used: 

  • in your pedagogy (class projects or visits).
  • for personal use in our NOVA Makers program.
  • for a greater understanding of current digital fabrication and manufacturing processes. 

Open to all NOVA Faculty & Staff regardless of department or field of expertise. Participants can register for one or more sessions.  

Registration and more details about the equipment can be found at  http://fablab.novastem.us/MachineTraining

NOVA Makers is a special program at the NOVA Fab Lab in which members can utilize advanced fabrication equipment to work on personal and class projects. Members have access to 3D printers, laser cutters/engravers, a UV flatbed printer, a large format printer/cutter, and a plastic thermoforming center (soldering stations and sewing machines certifications will be available in Fall 2022). Safety and machine trainings are provided along with the issuance of digital micro-credentials as certifications are completed.

Membership is initiated upon completion of a Safety & Orientation session and is ONLY open to high school students, NOVA students, and NOVA faculty/staff. More details on this prgram can be found in the Membership Handbook.

Register for sessions at fablab.novastem.us/Sign-up

Summer Schedule: June 28 - August 4

NOVA Makers

Safety &

Tuesdays | 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Thursdays |9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.


Tuesdays | 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Thursdays |11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Open Labs

Tuesdays | 1:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Wednesdays | 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Thursdays | 1:30 - 4:30 p.m.


Problem Bank

This bank is a place to submit everyday problems that can be solved through digital and traditional fabrication equipment in the NOVA Fab Lab by our NOVA Makers.

Submit a problem here

We offer hands-on learning experiences to K-12 school groups (public, private, & homeschool). Many or our activities incorporate fabrication technologies, coding, science and math content, and the engineering design process. All field trips include:

  • A hands-on leveled Activity:
    • Level 1 - Upper Elementary (3rd-5th)
    • Level 2 - Middle School
    • Level 3 - High School 
  • Tour of the Fab Lab (Makerspace, Woodshop, Mechatronics Lab, Electronics Lab, and Flex Lab).

Field Trip Activity Options

  1. Earthquake Simulators and Building Design - Students build earthquake simulators from robot parts, design and build a 3D structure, and test the earthquake resistance of those structures. Applied concepts and skills include plate tectonics, the engineering design process, and block coding. Base price of $150/group plus $5/student.
  2. Mini-Greenhouse Builds - Students build miniature greenhouses that can be taken home or used for extension activities (plant experiments, 3D printed add-ons, etc.) back in the classroom. Applied concepts and skills include carpentry, hand tool use (miter saw, square, canary scissors, hammer), and plastic thermoforming. Base price of $150/group plus $15/student.

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

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 Coordinator Lance Lacey at llacey@nvcc.edu, 703.530.3504, or submit an interest form.


We are currently accepting project submissions for ENV 122 and HRI 128. Submit your projects here.

You can also find helpful design resources here.

Guided tours of the NOVA Fab Lab including the Makerspace, Woodshop, Mechatronics Lab, Electronics Lab, and Flex Lab are available upon request. Please email Fab Lab staff at novafablab@nvcc.edu to request a tour. 

NOVA Fab Lab Design Challenge - Spring 2022

The Spring 2022 Design Challenge is open to students enrolled in a middle school, high school, or college/university within the continental USA. An individual or team of up to 3 students can compete.

The challenge for Spring 2022 is to design or refine a product to improve your school life.

Spring 2022 Winners!


1st Place Eli Reeder and Logan Pennington, The Nokesville School - "iDesk"
2nd Place Carmen Chica, Northern Virginia Community College - "All In Chair"
3rd Place Harris Lechtman, George C. Marshall High School - "Study Buddy Organizer"

Honorable Mentions

Middle School Eva Torrico, Thomas Jefferson Middle School - "Terretami Fork"
High School Tyler Freeman, Connor Freeman, and Lucas Morton, MOT Charter High School - "Recyclable Lunch Trays"
College Devin Gerdes, Northern Virginia Community College - "Print Catcher"

The Finalists and Honorable Mentions will be receiving an invitation to an in-person Awards Ceremony at the NOVA Fab Lab in June to be recognized for their achievement, to receive a fabricated version of their design (finalists only), and to receive their prizes and a tour of the Lab.

You can also sign-up HERE for our monthly STEM newsletter, the Interface, to stay current on upcoming challenges and other STEM events.

Special thanks to our judges from BAE Systems, Digital Realty, and Dewberry Engineering who volunteered their time and expertise.


Support for the Spring 2022 Design Challenge kindly provided by:

Bae Systems logo

Using Design Thinking

Thursday Feb 24 -or- Thursday Mar 31 | Virtual

Join us for this FREE session via Zoom to learn the 5 steps of design thinking to provide a process for moving an idea to a functional solution. We will cover examples of design thinking best practices, virtual team exercises in brainstorming, and provide a reference guide.

Learning the Tools

Thursday Mar 3 -or- Thursday Mar 24 | In-person at NOVA Fab Lab (Manassas)

Whether it is turning a digital design into a 2D, 2.5D or a 3D model, or building a physical model from scratch, this FREE in-person session will focus on four common fabrication technologies: laser cutting, 3D printing, CNC routing, and plastic thermoforming. Participants will learn the strengths and weaknesses of each for rapid prototyping as well as see equipment demonstrations of how each process works at the NOVA Fab Lab Makerspace in Manassas, VA.

Registration information at http://fablab.novastem.us/Sign-up

Your solution MUST be a design for a tangible product that can eventually be fabricated in our lab. You only will be submitting your product solution digitally and will not be submitting an actual physical product.

Your solution cannot solely be software, an application, an ideology, a service, or a request.


  • How unique is your idea?


  • Is your design aesthetically pleasing?
  • Does it attract the desired user?


  • Can the design be built?
  • Does it solve the intended problem?


  • How many people does your product benefit?
  • Can you adjust your product to increase its impact on a broader audience?

All entries must be submitted online at http://fablab.novastem.us/DesignChallenge

The Entry Form will walk you through the required components which will include:

  • Name of Product
  • Written Description of your Project - (1) Explain the problem from your school life that you are trying to solve. (2) Explain how your product will work and how it will solve the intended problem. * 500 maximum words
  • Graphical Description of your Product - Include at least 1 visual representation of your product such as: a digitized hand drawing/sketch, a CAD file (stl), a vector file (svg), a photo, a video (include link to video in a document or PDF - cannot upload actual video), or other digital format. Uploaded files must be of the type listed below: * Uploaded files must be PDF, JPEG, PNG, STL, SVG, SKP, DOC, DOCX, or OBJ file types. Maximum size of each file is 10 MB. Max of 3 files can be uploaded.

How do I submit my project? You will submit your design solution digitally via our Entry Form at http://fablab.novastem.us/DesignChallenge

Do I have to physically build my solution? No, in fact, we are not accepting physical objects, only a written description and graphical component. You will submit your product solution digitally via our Entry Form at http://fablab.novastem.us/DesignChallenge

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

What kinds of equipment/processes does the Fab Lab have available to fabricate the top three winning designs? Capabilities include:

  • CNC routing (4’x4’)
  • Additive Manufacturing (including color polyjet and experimental filament printers with dissolvable supports)
  • UV flatbed printer
  • Full Woodshop
  • CNC metal mill
  • Laser cutting/engraving
  • Soldering/electronics
  • Wire bending
  • Textile (sewing machines/surger)
  • Plastic thermoforming center (injection molding, extrusion, dip coating, welding, vacuum forming, & dome blowing)

Is there a size limitation for my solution? No, choose the size that best fits your solution to the problem.  If you are chosen as one of the top three winners, then the Fab Lab will fabricate your design and may need to scale the design to a reasonable size to create a tangible model.

Educator Reference Guide - This guide provides ideas on how to implement the Design Challenge into your classroom.

Dominating our Design Challenge – Mobile Fab Lab 

Are you interested in having a Fab Lab team and equipment come to your classroom or organization? In this interactive session, students will learn about the Spring 2022 Design Challenge, the design thinking process, and watch fabrication tools in action! Participants will also learn how to solve engineering design problems by engaging in a sample challenge. A Fab Lab team will come to your classroom with portable equipment (3D printer, laser cutter, plastic thermoformer, CNC router) and will lead the session. Contact the Lab at (703)530-3505 or via email at novafablab@nvcc.edu for more details. This programming effort requires advance notice and is available until March 31, 2022.  The financial cost of this program is kindly provided by our sponsor, BAE Systems.

Attend one of our Dominating our Design Challenge prep-sessions! We offer two session types that will introduce you to methods on how to solve design problems, practice a sample design challenge, and view fabrication equipment in action:

If you notice a problem that affects your school life, it’s likely something that affects others. Look deeply into those issues. Start by noticing items that don’t work well at school or on campus, or situations that could be improved with a physical product or item. 

Utilize the Design Thinking Process to help solve your problem. We have created a Design Thinking Reference Guide that outlines the process for you!

Don’t let size restrict your creativity! We can always scale your design to a size we can fabricate in our lab.

  • The Challenge is open to anyone enrolled in a middle school, high school, or post-secondary (college/university) educational institute within the continental USA.
  • For those under 18 years of age, parental consent is required at the time of project submission via the electronic entry form.
  • Participation is open to individuals, or teams with up to 3 total members.
  • 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 of the NOVA Fab Lab Design Challenge sponsors.
  • 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.
  • Agree to be bound by the decisions of the judges.
  • Warrant that you are eligible to participate.
  • Warrant that the submission is your original work.
  • 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 to compensation or reimbursement for any costs. 
  • Agree Northern Virginia Community College and all affiliates have the right to promote your entry.
  • 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.
  • Winning teams agree that the prize allocations are the same amount regardless if it is an individual or team that places in the top three. A winning team will determine amongst themselves how they share the prizes, as prizes will be awarded to the team as a whole and not to each team member.  
  • 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.

Equipment at the Fab Lab


Makers By Design Grant

MBD Grant


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 https://nvccppe.wixsite.com/fablab/ steminar for design files, images, videos, and more information on making PPE Face Shields.


For questions email Fab Lab Team at NovaFabLab@nvcc.edu.