"I really enjoyed that experience. I saw the unique talents of people on the autism spectrum and at the same time things they struggled with. I thought hopefully we can make a product that allows them to forget about those difficulties when they're at school."
The student team forged a partnership with Fraser, a company that provides services to children and adults with special needs, and within six months and after four initial prototype designs, they reached their final product.
The student team combined research as well as feedback from students diagnosed as autistic in order to ensure the pack meets as many people's needs as possible.
While the Nesel Pack was designed primarily with autism in mind, co-founder and Chief of Innovation at Nessel, Portra, told reporters that it could actually benefit any person with sensory perception needs.
"Anyone can personalize their backpack to make it an extension of themselves," he said.
"The original conversation was around backpacks and autism and we just came up with this organically," Martha Pietruszewski, the CEO and co-founder of Nesel packs told Sputnik.
Meet Martha! She is a cofounder of Nesel, loves pizza & reading, and is passionate about helping people. Say hi! 👋🏻 pic.twitter.com/dF6tMsDgO0— Nesel Packs (@Nesel_Packs) August 4, 2016
Studies claim that weighted vests such as the Nesel Packs could be calming to those who may be in the autism spectrum and these backpacks have pockets where weights can be added to function just like a weighted vest. This is said to help people with sensory challenges feel a calming pressure, literally feeling like a comforting bear hug.
"Our backpack has a hugging strap. The straps are wider at the bottom and its really meant to hug you," Pietruszewski told Sputnik.
Kendra Williams, an occupational therapist at Fraser, the partnered company that provides services to children and adults with special needs, told reporters that with the recommendation of a specialist, the backpack would be a good way to continue sensory therapies throughout the day.
"I could see this being very helpful for the right kind of client who benefits from weight and compression," said Williams.
Nesel Packs company is one of a group of finalists in the student division of the MN Cup, a premier competition for local entrepreneurs in Minnesota, USA to showcase their businesses and win prize money in order to grow.
While Nesel Packs may be the first sensory friendly backpack to hit the market, other products have been designed with a similar goal in mind.
The Snug Vest is an inflatable vest that also provides deep pressure therapy. And other products that do not need to be worn to impart a sense of calm include products like the Chill-Out Chair, that is said to provide a kind of pressurised cocoon-like experience for kids with Autism and disabilities.