Jena is a UX designer with a passion for human-centered design, largely the importance of putting the users’ needs first. She believes in leading with compassion and the hope of bettering people’s lives through strong UX research strategy, design, and storytelling. In her free time, you can most likely find her with her nose in a novel or comic book, or giving a Tarot reading to anyone willing.
Andrew is a user experience designer with a background in Industrial Design. He loves research, designing interfaces and user interactions, ergonomic product design, and much more. He recently graduated with a BFA in User Experience Design from SCAD and is ready to jump into the design world! He has already tackled the way money moves and is excited to continue designing for new and novel use cases.
Calyssa is a UX Designer with a focus in visual
design. After studying computer science
and mathematics for three years, she
switched gears to study UX.
Her STEM background allows her to bring
an analytical eye to her designs as well as
to work closely with developers and
engineers to craft beautiful, usable, final
The Halcyon Sensory Spaceship is a fully controllable, comprehensive, and immersive sensory experience
Public environments like theme parks are typically not accommodating to those with sensory issues (commonly seen in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder.) This can lead to individuals using situation avoidance as a coping mechanism, therefore missing out on social learning opportunities.
We created the Halcyon Sensory Spaceship, a comprehensive, immersive, and fully controllable sensory experience. The Spaceship puts the user in the captain’s seat, the environment adapts to entirely to their sensory needs. After the experience, the user able to re-enter the public environment feeling calm and secure.
DESIGNING FOR ONE (AND FOR ALL)
This is AJ.
He was diagnosed with high
functioning Autism at age 3,
and is now 11 years old.
He is wicked good at math, always cracking
jokes, and utterly obsessed with Star Wars.
He likes to spend most of his days hanging
out with his family and playing video games,
like your average 11 year old boy. He was
diagnosed with High Functioning Autism at
the age of 3, and was diagnosed with panic
disorder later in life around age 10. He is very
social, and loves making new friends, however
adapting to new environments can be a very
intense experience for him which frequently
causes him to feel anxiety from a strong fear
of the unknown. He is a very sweet boy, rarely
breaking out in aggressive behavior and you’ll
almost always see him with a smile on his
face. One of our teammates has a close tie
to him, therefore we’ve decided to design a
solution just for him (with hopes that it can be
a solution for many).
“I’m astounded that this is revolutionary.”
- Olenka Steciw Villarreal, Founder of Magical Bridge Foundation
The Halcyon Sensory Spaceship carries a message of radical
accessibility with a dash of speculative design. By occupying such a large footprint, the Spaceship
encourages the businesses who buy in to adopt this message. It
gets people talking about Sensory Issues and how we can make
the world better for everybody.
Lights with adjustable color and brightness are
paired with a simple projector to create gentle
visual stimulation and adapt the environment.
Lights and symbols also provide visual feedback.
Intuitive touch controls and multi-textured objects
give the user tactile feedback and the option to
stim and fidget with objects in the space.
A one-sided voice output delivers instructions to
the user and creates a human presence in the
room. The user isn’t required to speak back to the
interface as some users are nonverbal.
You are an astro-botanist travelling
the universe to collect organic
samples. You’ve just landed on a
planet called Earth located in the
Orion arm of the Milky Way.
Earth has a sensory environment which is different to your home
planet of Halcyon. The Sensory Spaceship is a hyper sensory
chamber. You, the captain, have complete control over your
environment. Through gradual adjustment, it will help you calm
down and get acclimated to Earth’s sensory atmosphere.
We’ve set out to switch the narrative from
disorder to a gift which grants individuals
with unique perceptions of the world. As they
say, when you’ve met one person with Autism,
you’ve met one person with Autism. We hope
that through this process we can give a voice to
those with Autism and heightened sensitivities,
and family members of those individuals.
We firmly believe that through designing an
adaptable and flexible environment we can
change perceptions, and shift the conversation
to one that is more celebratory of the passion,
sensitivity, and laser focus often seen in people
on the spectrum. Follow us through our senior
capstone, to understand how our research drove
each and every touchpoint in our final solution.
Studying people who have
sensory problems with
or without an autism
diagnosis could help
these children and provide
insight into the relationship
between sensory problems
and the core social and
seen in autism.
“At least three-quarters of children with
autistic spectrum disorders have significant
symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder”
Source: STAR Institute
Students age 11 to
141 who have both
Autism and Sensory
that live in a lower
to middle income
 “Parents often begin panicking when their kids hit 14 and
transition planning starts coming up.”
- Child Mind Institute
 “Parents whose children are termed “high-functioning,” including those with an
Asperger’s diagnosis, have reason to be concerned that their kids—who may be
dealing with things like ADHD, anxiety and sensory issues in addition to their
social and communication delays—are not going to magically stop needing
support after they reach a certain chronological age.”
- Child Mind Institute
 “Students with ASD from lower-income families are at especially high risk
[for failing to successfully transition into adulthood]”
- Interactive Autism Network
Learn About Your Community
THE RESEARCH PHASE
In Ten Weeks We...
Reviewed 30 pieces of literature about ASD and SPD
Sent out two surveys with 116 and 58 responses
Toured the Matthew Reardon Center for Autism
Met 30 kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Talked to a behavioral therapist specializing in ASD
Interviewed five parents, two adults, and one child with ASD and SPD
Interviewed the founder of the Magical Bridge Foundation
and talked to a toy designer at HEXBUG robotic toys.
Sensory issues may hinder social ability
...by causing situation avoidance and the individual to “shut down”
as a coping mechanism. Being able to communicate that there is a
sensory problem is integral to the individual being able to interact
with the world around them.
Transitioning into adulthood
is extremely difficult without
the proper tools to do so.
Kids with autism in lower income brackets have a hard time
gaining access to resources like doctors and therapists. This creates
problems for them as adults because they haven’t built a solid
foundation to grow upon.
Sensory problems cause
major anxiety which can get
displaced to look like
anger or acting out.
Self awareness is what it comes down to at the end of the day, for
parents and kids, and figuring which self-soothing methods work best.
Finding an outlet to express
yourself if you can’t verbalise
your emotions is important.
Personifying the symptoms of ASD and SPD makes them easier to
talk about. Video games and technology are popular methods for
people with ASD to express themselves and socialize with others.
Society could be a bit more
welcoming to people with
While wheelchair ramps have made buildings accessible to those
with physical disabilities, the public space is not very welcoming to
people with cognitive impairments or sensory needs.
The concept of an ideal
environment looks different
People with sensory issues have particular needs regarding the
facets of their environment. Some like it hot, some like it cold,
some like it squishy, some like it stable. The environment needs
to adapt in order to suit the needs of the individual.
Kids with sensory issues are at risk for being singled out and bullied
Inclusive play for kids with ASD is imperative to health and social development
Tech is popular for ASD/SPD because it is flexible, multisensory, and multimodal
Sensory issues stem from the environment being misaligned to the individual’s needs
Environments need to be flexible in order to accommodate a wide range of abilities
People from low income brackets fall through the cracks in the disability system
The politics surrounding treatment and diagnosis make it difficult to do either effectively
It’s hard to get treatment for sensory issues because SPD isn’t recognized as its own thing
Design for Everybody
After learning about our community, it was time to design alongside our users.
We asked AJ to sit down and draw his dream spaceship. We told him to make a place
to calm down and have fun. AJ's perfect spaceship includes:
A place to calm down in public
An understanding community
The feeling of security
A voice so he doesn’t feel alone
Music or white noise
Nothing requiring fine motor
Secure everything to walls/floor
Things to hit/throw
Porthole or room for caretaker
QUICK AND DIRTY PROTOTYPING
Armed with AJ's list of requirements, we dove into low-fidelity prototyping.
We constructed a cardboard spaceship at scale to test the ergonomics at
scale and walk through the interaction with our users. We handed our users sharpies
to edit the design on the fly. From here, we recognized some major usability issues
with the spaceship design like the lack of wheelchair access and room for the caretaker.
This mid-fidelity prototype is the product of our first
ten week design sprint.
The original plan for our second design sprint was to construt
the spaceship at full scale and functionality. This full-scale
functional prototype would be donated to the Matthew Reardon Center for Autism,
a facility we toured during our first round of research, to join their
new sensory playground. Unfortunately, the world is an unpredictable place
so these plans were put on hold and the spaceship construction turned digital.
Evaluate and Update
USER FLOW + DIALOGUE FLOW
Ground the user in a calm, dark, welcoming environment.
Put the user in a position of control and offer a refocusing activity
Allow the user to explore and alter their space at their own pace
Slowly reintroduce user to external stimuli to prepare them for the outside world
Gift the user a reminder of the coping skills they’ve learned in this exercise