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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, woodworking, robotics, additive manufacturing (3D printing), and more.

NOVA Fab Lab Design Challenge - Fall 2022

The challenge for Fall 2022 is to fabricate a replica of your favorite science fiction prop.

The rise in popularity of replica prop "garage kits" (on account of their construction in small, non-factory settings) has been celebrated by celebrity DIYer Adam Savage, and hundreds of “Youtubers” alike. DIY Prop replicas are becoming so sophisticated it can be hard to differentiate them from originals. For our latest Design Challenge, The Fab Lab is celebrating STEM by hosting our own replica prop making competition. As scientists, artists, engineers, and inventors the Fab Lab staff believe the foundation of prop making, especially in science fiction requires a seamless blend of innovation, problem solving, creativity, and craft. Your challenge is to fabricate a replica of an original science fiction prop used in a movie or a TV show. The more convincing your replica is, the greater your chance of winning.


Tuesday, November 1, 2022 - Design Submission Portal Opens
Sunday, December 11, 2022 - Design Submission Portal Closes at 11:59 p.m.
Thursday, December 15, 2022 - Finalists will be Announced
January 2023 - Winners are announced at the Finalist Exhibition.


Awards will be presented in each of the following categories: Middle School, High School, and Post-Secondary.

1st Place $250 plus 3D Printer and Accessories, 2nd Prize $250, 3rd Prize $100

Financial Support for the Fall 2022 Design Challenge and related activities kindly provided by:

Amtek Company, Inc, Bae Systems, and Micron

Enter your submission at fablab.novastem.us/DesignChallenge

What is a prop?

A prop is any inanimate object that an actor interacts with. There is a wide range of props that vary on how they are used and what they are used for. Props are created by the “property department” (also called props department) which is led by the prop master.

How is a prop different to a costume?

Typically, if you wear it, it's a costume. If you hold it, it's a prop. However, there is some grey area here – a helmet worn by an actor can be considered both costume and a prop, while a cape or gown would be considered costume.

What about scale? We will accept full size and scaled replicas, so long as there is precedent for a scaled version. In many cases, the original prop was scaled due to size and budget constraints – think of the Millennium Falcon or Titanic models. Scaled down versions of large models and props are permitted. Smaller props that are intended to interact with an actor should remain true or close to life-size if possible.

Why Science Fiction?

Science fiction has been called the "literature ideas", and often explores the potential consequences of scientific, social, and technological innovations. Since science fiction is centered around exploration it has predicted several actual inventions such as the atom bomb, robots, and AI. Science fiction provides the perfect STEM platform for design, fabrication, and engineering.

What do you mean by replica?

A replica for this competition is an imitation or copy of a prop, with an emphasis on recreating the aesthetics in as much detail as possible. Since the original prop might very well be a replica itself, operating parts are optional and not necessary.

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

  1. Documentation of the Original Prop.
    • QTY 5: high-quality reference images of the original prop (jpeg, jpg, tif, tiff, png, pdf).
    • Movie stills, magazine photos, documentation, plans, etc.
    • The more detail these provide the better (scale, size, detail, finish, color, weathering).
  2. Evidence of your Fabrication Process (how you created your replica).
    • QTY 5: high-quality photos documenting your production and fabrication techniques and process (jpeg, jpg, tif, tiff, png, pdf).
    • Should span the process from beginning to end.
  3. Documentation of your Fabricated Replica (all entries must be built, assembled, and ready for exhibit).
    • QTY 5: high-quality, still, color, digital images of your finished replica (jpeg, jpg, tif, tiff, png, pdf).
    • Preferably on a neurtal (white, grey, black) background.
    • Include scale references if appropriate.
    • Multiple views are suggested (top, front, side, perspective, etc.).
  4. Completed online questionnaire and application.
  1. Accuracy, attention to detail, authenticity (0-10 points)
  2. Build quality, craftsmanship, and detail (0-10 points)
  3. Inventiveness, creativity, problem solving, working with limitations (0-10 points)
  4. Choice of materials (0-10 points)
  5. Aesthetics: painting / finishing / weathering (0-10 points)
  6. Functionality such as lights, sounds, mechanical and moving parts (0-10 points)
  7. Display base, case, or presentation (0-10 points)
  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 only open to individuals. No team entries will be accepted.
  4. Only 1 entry per person is permitted.
  5. Prop replicas must be related in some way to, or invoke, science fiction.
  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.
  9. No projectiles, metal blades, pyrotechnics, or functional firearms.
  • 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 to 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 novafablab@nvcc.edu (use the subject heading "2022 Design Challenge).

Programs at the NOVA Fab Lab

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

How do I join?

To become a member, you must demonstrate an understanding of our rules and regulations by completing the online orientation session, and subsequently passing a quiz. The orientation and quiz can be found by enrolling in our NOVA Makers Canvas course at the links below.

NOVA Students, Faculty, and Staff
High School Students

Membership Fee

NOVA Students, Faculty and Staff - FREE
High School Students - $150 annual fee (payment will be collected upon the first visit to the lab)

Current Machine Certifications

Available certifications - 3D Printer, Vinyl Printer and Cutter, Laser Cutter and Engraver, UV Printer, Thermoforming Center

Fall 2022 NOVA Maker Hours

Open Lab

Mon, Wed & Thurs | 5:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Friday |9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., 5:00 - 9:30 p.m.
Saturday | 12:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Certification Sessions

Monday | 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Wed & Thurs | 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Friday | 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.

For more details, see the NOVA Makers Member Handbook

We have no summer workshop offerings but check out our Fabrication Camps for 4th–9th graders.

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 at novafablab@nvcc.edu, 703.530.3505, 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. 

Equipment at the Fab Lab

Fab Lab Equipment

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.