A common complaint from astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) is the lack of integration and availability of mission support tools while performing astronauts are performing duties. For instance, schedule viewing, locating and displaying procedures, and finding critical information such as stowage locations for equipment are all found in separate systems. This led to greater cognitive demands and increased likelihood of errors, not to mention feelings of frustration.

Team Kairos was tasked with creating an integrated "mobile crew assistant" that would aid astronauts as they executed tasks. A mobile application that accesses key mission support data could lead to improved performance and further advancements for current and future systems.


A three minute overview of our research and design process:

Team Kairos presents Mobile Assistant for Task Execution (MATE) from Diana Chen on Vimeo.


As project lead, it was my goal to ensure not only that our team's work was compelling, but also that our team functioned smoothly throughout the entire project. I maintained the focus on our vision and ensured the pacing at each stage of research, design, and development. To that end, my responsibilities included internal and client communications, and coordination of project requirements. I created and maintained a project schedule, organized and facilitated team and client meetings, and coordinated deliverables. My secondary role was to contribute to research and design at each step of our process.


We explored, brainstormed, and gathered ideas to assist with setting and understanding the scope of our project. During Spring semester, we began with extensive background research in human space missions and in several analogous domains with similar challenges. Methods used included contextual inquiries and retrospective interviews with users. During the design and development phase, we began with brainstorming and concept validation, and then went through four iterative design cycles of our prototype, each of increasing fidelity. After each new prototype, we conducted usability testing with NASA employees, designing scenarios to test criteria, such as interruptibility, memorability, task switching, and general ease of use. We employed methods such as think aloud, heuristic evaluation, and cognitive walkthroughs.


Through five iterations of increasing fidelity, we developed MATE, or Mobile Assistant for Task Execution, a mobile application that provides an integrated set of tools for schedule viewing, activity execution, notetaking, and communications. The prototypes ranged from paper, to interactive PDF on a tablet, to functioning prototype with default iOS elements, then incorporating visual style, and finally a high-fidelity working prototype integrating both visual and technical development.

MATE presents four key features: the crewmember’s list of daily activities (the “home view”), a dedicated activity view for each activity (the “activity view”), persistent notetaking, and a ground communication panel.

After the research phase, we ideated with hand sketches to brainstorm various solutions. Our first prototype was low-fidelity, done in paper and pencil.

prototype1 prototype1

With each progression, we did usability testing to glean insights and key findings to guide our next iteration.

Charles1 Homescreen1

Design language and technical development began early and moved concurrently with each prototype. Our visual design was incorporated into the fourth and fifth iterations. Our final iteration was a working prototype designed for the iPad.

Prototype4 Finishfeedback

View the full presentation deck in Keynote.
Or the PDF version.

Read more about Team Kairos:

Kairos team website

Research Report

Design and Development Report

The MHCI Capstone Course is an 8-month long project that covers the end to end of a product research, design, and development cycle.