NYU BrainWaves app

Design a platform for high school students to conduct their own brain experiments.

NYU BrainWaves App

Design a platform that allows high school students to conduct their own brain experiments.

A high fidelity mockup of the BrainWave App's Collect Screen. Includes a top navigation, an EEG head plot and a raw data stream.



UI/UX Design


October 2018

The NYU BrainWaves program is a “lab-based science experience, where students learn to design and carry out brain experiments using real brainwave scanning equipment in the classroom.” During the 2017-2018 school year, BrainWaves participants used pre-existing neuroscience software to conduct experiments. The software used was primarily built for professional scientists. Thus, it was not easily accessible to high school students learning neuroscience material for the first time. Furthermore, for students familiar with the aesthetic and usability of modern applications, the available software felt clunky and confusing by comparison. Most applications also only focused on part of the entire experiment cycle (for instance, only data cleaning and analysis). This meant that students needed to use multiple tools to design, conduct and analyze their experiment.

For these reasons, the BrainWaves team sought to create an all-inclusive platform designed for students. The platform needed to allow students to design, conduct and analyze their experiment and should result in an empowering and encouraging first-time neuroscience experience.

Three screenshots of software used to design and conduct EEG experiments. On the far left, a screenshot of the OpenSesame software. In the middle, a screenshot of EEG Lab and on the right, EEG plot.

Project goals

To make an all-in-one platform designed for high school students to design their own neuroscience experiment, collect and clean EEG data, and analyze their results. 

  • Teach students neuroscience
  • Foster an interest in neuroscience

  • Help students to be more proficient at the scientific method

1 - Design, 2 - Collect, 3 - Clean, 4 - Analyze


~20 minute active engagement window

While class duration is roughly 40-50 minutes, the active engagement window is shorter. This accounts for the time it takes students to arrive, get settled, regain focus on the task, and clean-up/save their work.

EEG headsets don't always work

Sometimes EEG headsets produce weak signals. When this occurs, students typically try another headset, which can take a few minutes to prepare and place on the subject.

Classrooms are lively, dynamic environments

Students work at their own pace. Because of this, they are often at different stages in the experiment process. Some may be collecting data while others are designing their experiment. The result of this is a dynamic, often noisy environment.

New skills need reinforcement to stick 

Learning new skills requires practice. When engaging with experiment tasks for the first few times, students need regular refreshers. Examples include how and why to apply saline solution to the headset or how to slide the headset onto a subject's head.



To understand the scientific method in a fun, hands-on process and to overcome the fear of science being difficult or inaccessible to them

To understand the scientific method in a fun, hands-on process and to overcome the fear of science being difficult or inaccessible to them


Overly complex or buggy software and not obtaining tangible results



To engage their students with exciting material, to feel empowered to help the students succeed and to be able to effectively use the platform to teach the content


Times when students are unable to grasp new concepts and times when the teachers have to be tech support

The BrainWaves team

BrainWaves team


To motivate students to engage in STEM careers and to develop interactive neuroscience tools for citizen science research and educational purposes


Software accessibility (monetary), hardware compatibility, funding and sustainability, and target group, teacher and mentor variability

Research takeaways

Contextual research and interviews unearthed rich insights that informed the design of the final solution. The ~20-minute active engagement window, for instance, suggested that the solution should allow users to be able to quickly and efficiently pick up where they left off the previous class. Additionally, students should be able to easily save their work at the end of class, even if they are in the middle of an activity. The need to reinforce new skills suggested that the platform should walk students through new concepts and skills when they first encounter them. The tutorials should also be readily available at any time should a student need reinforcement.

Low-fidelity prototype & usability testing

Task 1
Test out the EEG headset for the first time

"This is your first time using the BrainWaves app. Your teacher asks you to test out using the headset for the first time. Show me how you would practice connecting the headset."

Task 2
Choose an experiment

"Now that you are familiar with connecting the headset, your teacher asks you to choose an experiment that you are interested in and contribute data from one subject (a fellow student)."

Task 3
Load & clean data collected the week before

"You collected data last week. Let’s say you need to clean that data now. Show me how you would do that."


1. Improve wayfinding for starting a task

2. Clarify and simplify the "Test," "Run" and "Record" actions

3. Improve naming process

4. Rewrite onboarding questions as teaching statements & reminders


A series of high fidelity mockups of the BrainWave Application, including an Overview screen, Experiment Protocol screen, and New Experiment screen. On the collection of screens, there is an illustration of an abstract face and house and an abstract set of controls. Each screen includes a top navigation and buttons.
A series of high fidelity mockups of the BrainWave Application connectivity screens. The first asks users to turn on their headsets, with Next and Back buttons. The second screen asks users to insert the USB, with Next and Back buttons. The final screen shows which headsets the system found, with options to select the device, click don't see your device, Next and Back buttons
A series of high fidelity mockups of the BrainWave Application, in particular the Clean, Collect and Custom Design screens.


Custom illustrations were created for the Faces/Houses and Custom experiments and the Research Question, Hypothesis, and Methods sections. Illustrations gave the application additional polish and helped make the tool feel more accessible.

5 Illustrations, including a scene with a face and a house, a set of controls, a lightbulb, a question mark, and a document with writing.

Style guide and component library

The application's visual design is derived from the NYU brand and tailored for BrainWaves.

A series of color swatches used in the BrainWaves application, followed by button states (initial, hover, focus, active, disabled), navigation states, and checkboxes states.