By Cheryl Toomey, University Relations Graduate Assistant

Engineering StudentsAutistic children often suffer from overstimulation, particularly from sights and sounds. Five UTC engineering students – Cassidy Craven, Jimmy DePrimo, Jeremy Stewart, Drew Bennett, and Christopher Jones – have come up with a solution to this problem for one therapy center.

The sensory pod is designed to provide autistic children a place to escape sensory overload and calm down prior to their therapy appointments, which allows them to be more focused.

“I thought this would be an interesting project. Being able to build something to help someone else is pretty cool. I’ve enjoyed it,” said DePrimo.

The pod has inner and outer walls made of plywood with insulation in between to muffle sound. The interior of the pod is padded for safety and the top is removable, so that the therapist has easy access to the child. The inside of the pod is covered in marine vinyl, which is waterproof, and is attached with Velcro, so that it can be easily removed and cleaned.

“I think the hardest part was trying to understand the world from their perspective. We had to design this for those kids, and it took quite a bit of brainstorming to figure out what they would need and where they were coming from. That was definitely a learning experience,” said Stewart.

The team experienced an unexpected hurdle when the therapy center they were originally designing the sensory pod for closed. It took them approximately a week to find a new recipient for their sensory pod. This new therapy center was still under construction, which meant that the team had to alter their initial designs for the sensory pod. Because the new recipients did not know where exactly the sensory pod would go, the team had to make the design smaller and more mobile.

Out of their $400 budget, the team managed to spend only $380.

“We did come in under budget, thankfully. We were fortunate enough to get a $25 gift card from Home Depot, and there were some materials that we were able to repurpose from things we had around our houses to bring in to use, so that helped.” said Steward. “I think it turned out pretty good. I’m glad we worked so hard on it.”

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