Motivating female students for STEM through VR

Master Thesis

Project Overview

A VR game intended to motivate female students in the age of 15-17 years of age for math. The player must construct a bridge using mathematics as fast as possible.
The thesis was very well received and graded 12 (A).

My Role

I was the sole writer of my Master Thesis. Therefore I did everything, inlcluding:

  • User Research, ideation, prototyping and usability testing.
  • Coding the Oculus VR game in Unity.
  • Collaborating and planning with my main stakeholder: Skals Continuing School.

Design Process

I used Löwgren & Stolterman's 5 Design Headings for this process. The phases are:
1. Inquiry, 2. Exploration, 3. Composition, 4. Assessment, 5. Coordination.

The Problem

Women are underrepresented in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) due to lack of motivation for STEM subjects, but workplaces are increasingly requesting STEM competencies. There are many reasons for women's underrepresentation and lack of interest in STEM: Shortage of role-models, self-concepts in math and language subjects and exposure to stereotypes. One way to spark motivation are stimulating environments, and with the emergence of VR, we have a medium which is more stimulating than most other media in use. Therefore, I designed and constructed a VR artefact as a solution.

Desk Research

I researched motivational psychology to better understand the subject matter.

Expert Interviews

I interviewed experts of motivation and learning Richard Göllner and Barbara Flunger to better understand the subject matter.

Co-Design Workshop

I facilitated a two day co-design workshop with girls in the age of 15-17 years of age at Skals Continuing School.

Focus Groups

I divided the participants into groups of 6 to discuss what motivates them. A facilitator was chosen at random.

Brainwriting 6-3-5

Participants build upon each others ideas by adding to the previous idea before passing the paper unto the next person.

Group Passing

Participants build upon each others ideas using sketches.


Participants were divided into groups of 3-4 to present their design solutions using comics.

KJ Brainstorming

After the co-design workshop I did a KJ brainstorming where all ideas and keywords were written down on post-its and sorted by category.

Empathy Mapping

By mapping what participants do, say and make I can begin to understand their hidden needs in relation to motivation.

The Solution

I built a VR game prototype for Oculus in Unity. It is based on the participants hidden motivational needs and the best and most feasible workshop game ideas. The player builds a bridge, step-by-step, using math as fast as she can. She can ask the role model, MAI, for help.


The player builds a bridge using math. She can use the 'toolwatch' to write on and calculate the correct answer, acquire information on tasks or ask MAI for assistance.

Role model

The motivational supporting role model, MAI, assists the player throughout the game.


I facilitated an evaluation workshop where the participants would evaluate the prototype and to see if the prototype had an impact on STEM motivation.

What I learned

This design process highlighted the importance of continually keeping users involved.
The design process fundamentally changed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the shutdown of continuing schools. I could no longer continue the co-design process as originally planned and instead, the process became more theoretical. The lack of testing iterations meant that the prototype did not increase motivation.
The pandemic set a constraint that made me a better designer and I realize how important users and testing are to the creation of a product.