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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.


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.

Every day we notice problems or inefficiencies with our surroundings and often say things like, “It would be easier or better if....” School is no exception. Whether it’s finding your friends in the hallway, organizing papers and materials for classwork or projects, waiting in long lines to get lunch, or making daily tasks a bit more fun, there are many ways to improve an area of your school life and we are excited to see your design solutions!

Submit Your Design


  • Saturday, January 15, 2022 - Design submission portal opens
  • Friday, April 15, 2022 - Design submission portal closes at 11:59 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 14, 2022 - Top 3 winners are announced!


Financial Support for the Spring 2022 Design Challenge kindly provided by:

Bae Systems logo

Submit your design at fablab.novastem.us/DesignChallenge.

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.

Programs at the NOVA Fab Lab

See below for Programs at the Lab:

Mini-Workshop: Laser Cut Holiday Decorations

Saturday, Dec 4 | 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Participants can create a personalized Laser Cut Holiday Decoration. This mini-workshop is part of the larger Manassas Career Day on campus and participants can come and go at any time.

In addition, guided tours of the Fab Lab will be provided on the half hour that same day. Free, no registration required, open to the public and family friendly.

Friday Night Robotics

The NOVA Fab Lab will be open on Friday nights for VEX teams to scrimmage and work on their robots. A game field will be available along with space for teams to work.

Start on September 17th and continues until the Virginia State VEX Championship.

VEX IQ Challenge (VIQC) - The 1st and 3rd Friday’s of the month - 5pm to 10pm

VEX Robotics Competition (VRC) - The 2nd and 4th Friday’s of the month - 5pm to 10pm

A one-time registration fee of $10 per participant is required for this recurring event (NOTE: Parental consent is required in the registration process as each participant needs to register - coaches cannot sign-up their entire team in one registration)

Register at http://fablab.novastem.us/FridayNightRobotics

Maker Club (Middle School) - Coming Winter 2022!

This six-session program in the NOVA Fab Lab allows participants to make and create while solving design challenges and fabricating tangible items. An emphasis on the engineering design process and design thinking will be introduced. The use of fabrication equipment (such as 3D printers, laser cutters, plastic thermoforming machines, etc.) in conjunction with other technologies will allow for integrative making experiences.

NOVA Makers is a program at the NOVA Fab Lab in which members can use the Makerspace to work on personal projects, participate in regional/national design challenges, and/or gain more skills in a Maker community setting. Currently the technologies available for projects are additive manufacturing (3D printing), laser cutting/engraving, and hand tools. Sessions are available for college students, faculty & staff, and high school students. A NOVA Fab Lab membership, a safety and orientation training, and machine specific certifications are provided and required as part of this program.

Resources & Member Handbook

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


NOVA Makers

Open Labs

Mondays | 4:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Thursdays | 4:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Fridays | 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sat (2nd, 4th & 5th) |
11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.


Safety &

Tuesdays | 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Sat (1st & 3rd) | 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.


Tuesdays | 7:30 - 9:30 p.m.
Sat (1st & 3rd) | 1:00 -3:00 p.m.

We offer hands-on learning experiences to K-12 schools (public, private, & homeschool groups) in a variety of activities. Many of our activities incorporate coding, robotics, science and math content, data collection, the engineering design process and fabrication technology. In addition to the selected field trip activity, all our field trips include a tour of the Fab Lab, a safety training and an overview of local trending STEM careers related to NOVA’s STEM degree programs. 

Contact the Fab Lab Coordinator, Lance Lacey, at llacey@nvcc.edu or 703.530.3504 to discuss specific STEM learning experiences for your students. You can submit the following Field Trip Request Form for more information.

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.

Makerspace Demystify Series

Dates: Monday - Dec 13, Jan 31, Feb 28, & Mar 21 @ 4:00pm-6:00pm
Location: Virtual Zia Zoom

This series focuses on “demystifying” fabrication equipment and essential software. Educators can choose which sessions to attend based on their needs. Each session consists of a short presentation, Q&A with expert technician, and lesson plan discussion. Registration includes access to an online lesson plan, an introductory video, and presentation documents. Sessions are open to any NoVA region STEM educators.

December 13th - Demystifying 3D Printing

It whirs and bings, and if you’re patient, it prints you a cool miniature Han Solo, but once the novelty is over, how do you make better prints? Understanding your 3D-printer, and how the print settings effect everything from strength, surface quality, print time, and supports is crucial for success. In this session, we walk you through how the printer works, common troubleshooting solutions, print settings, and post-processing techniques. Session is targeted to educators with beginner to middle-level knowledge of 3D printing. Topics discussed are broad and translatable to variety of manufacturers.

January 31st - Demystifying Laser Cutting

Yes, that acrylic keychain is cool, but the laser cutter is capable of being much more than a tchotchke maker. Considered in prototyping shops as indispensable due to its ease of use, range of materials, and unparalleled processing speeds the laser cutter can make fast work of production, encouraging prototype iterations in a small window of time. This class will provide gateway projects to share with students that encourage part making for complicated assemblies for fabrication on a laser cutter. Topics discussed are broad and translatable to a variety of manufacturers.

February 28th - Demystifying VCarve Pro

Your CNC router is up and running but you are still lost on how to toolpath for it. How is a pocket different to a prole pass, and when would I use Conventional vs. Climb cutting? How do I build a proper tool database, and how does nesting work? From creating ramps to adding tabs, this session will explain the tools and when best to use them. While the Fab Lab uses Version 11, educators running any version are welcome to attend.

March 21st - Demystifying CNC Routing

Is your CNC a large paper weight? It’s easy to become overwhelmed when confronted with feeds and speeds, chip load calculations, up-cuts and down-cuts, compression bits, spoil boards, and XYZ coordinates. This classwill shed light on the typically opaque processes that can make CNC routing so intimidating. Topics discussed are broad and translatable to variety of CNC router manufacturers.

Register at http://teacherpd.novastem.us/Register 

For more Teacher Professional Development Opportunities go to our STEM Teacher PD Page.

Saturday, Dec 4 | 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. (starting every half hour)

Guided tours will be provided as part of the Manassas Career Day. Participants will be able to view the spaces and equipment in the Makerspace, Woodshop, and college Mechatronics labs.

In addition, attendees will be able to participate in Laser Cutting Holiday Decorations the same day at no cost. 

No registration required, open to the public and family friendly.




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 Lance Lacey at llacey@nvcc.edu.