College - Author 1

College of Engineering

Department - Author 1

Biomedical and General Engineering Department

Degree Name - Author 1

BS in General Engineering



Primary Advisor

James Widmann


This report discusses the development of a Portable Sensory Room to be used at Newland Elementary School in Huntington Beach. Newland Elementary has an exceptional Special Needs program that teaches the children with the most severe cases of autism in its school district. People with autism typically also have sensory processing disorders, which can be extremely disruptive for a child’s development and can make it difficult for a child to be able to concentrate long enough to gain necessary life skills. The idea behind a Sensory Rooms is to create a place to calm the students and to expose them to new stimuli to explore and learn in a calm and non-threatening environment. There are three different Special Needs classrooms that the Portable Sensory Room will be moved between in a single day. The teachers at Newland Elementary also desired a swing element and a pressure applying device. Both of these components are used regularly in Occupational Therapy with children with autism and have been proven to help children develop necessary skills in life.

The design of the Portable Sensory Room, which was composed of several brainstorming sessions and decision matrices, lasted several months from Fall 2015 to midway through the Winter 2016 quarter. The final design consists of seven different components - five of the components act as the structure of the room and can easily connect to one another to achieve a uniform enclosure and two are separate from the room structure. All of these components have interactions on their faces that either comfort or challenge the children and all contribute to a calming sea theme throughout. The components are all on locking casters which makes transportation of the assembly easy. The five components of the room structure are: the tactile wall, the bookshelf, the tactile station, the fabric panels, and the LED panels. The tactile wall focuses on helping the children gain fine motor skills by use of tracks that the children can move fish along, a moveable gear set, and a whiteboard. The bookshelf is filled with activities for fine motor skills as well, and provides extra storage for the teachers to arrange according to their desires. The tactile station is a dresser with calming light effects at the top. The drawers can be completely removed and put on the floor, where the children can play with tactile interactions in an enclosed space to avoid a mess. The fabric panels provide tactile sensations using several swatches of fabric that range from calming to challenging. The LED panels have a calming ocean mural and also allow children to observe the notion of cause-and-effect via a control box that changes the light display.

The other two components are the swing structure and the pressure applicator, which can either be used in the room or separately from the room depending on the teachers’ preferences. The swing structure was purchased from Amazon and allows for a 360 degree rotation. The pressure applicator was built by the team and is comprised of two horizontal rollers that the child can slide in between. The addition of rubber bands allows the child/teacher to choose how much pressure will be exerted on the child.

The build phase of the project lasted from the end of Winter 2016 quarter to the end of Spring 2016 quarter. All of the components were made from lumber and sanded down in order to avoid any sharp edges. Testing was performed to verify that the teachers would not have to exert an enormous effort to move all of the components, as well as to determine the tipping loads for each of the components. The tipping loads were below the desired specification; in order to mitigate this, two adults will be required to move each component. When the room is assembled together, the entire structure is quite stable and does not pose a tipping hazard. The final product will be delivered to Newland Elementary School on June 17th, 2016.