Joey, a talkative 8-year-old from Illinois, has cerebral palsy. As a result, he has limited upper body strength. Currently, when Joey sits on airplanes, he has trouble maintaining an upright position in the seat. He often tilts forward or sideways out of the seat, as well as sliding out feet first. Mrs. Hitzeman, Joey’s mother, tasked us with designing an effective solution to this problem. 


The Air Hug is a supportive, comfortable, discreet support device which allows Joey to comfortably fly on airplanes and have fun listening to music, and playing on his iPad during the flight.

                                                         The requirements for The Air Hug are:
Air Hug team with Joey and Mrs. HitzemanSupportive: Woven straps and tilted seat cushion keep Joey securely in the seat, without being overly constraining

Comfortable: Foam seat wedge made especially for wheelchair users. Padded straps are flexible enough for easy movement.

Non-intrusive: Low profile harness does not interfere with any passengers around Joey.

Discreet: The device does not stand out to other passengers and look like a medical device

Portable: The device needs to be small enough and light enough for one airline employee to transport to the seat. It also has to be small enough for Ms. Hitzeman to carry, or attach to Joey’s wheelchair.

Development Process

  1. The team met with their client, Mrs. Hitzeman, to understand the situation of Joey's condition and how it affects him and his family when traveling on a plane.
  2. The team visited with the user, Joey, to further understand the problem and recognize its constraints.
  3. The team got together to brainstorm potential solutions and decided to test three different possible solutions for Joey. Three mockups were made for the potential solution.
  4. The mockups were taken to Joey and Mrs. Hitzeman for user testing to receive feedback from them to see what they liked and disliked about each design. Both Joey and Mrs. Hitzeman expressed interest in the third design, a portable seat wedge that uses Joey's own weight to stabilize him on the airplane.
  5. The team developed an adjustable strap seat wedge that uses the user's own weight. For the prototype, a musical cover was added to tailor it to Joey's love for musicals.
  6. The team presented their design to Mrs. Hitzeman and gifted The Air Hug to Joey.