St. Catherine of Alexandria students win regional contest with idea for an app for Alzheimer’s patients

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, January 25, 2015

A team of sixth-grade girls from St. Catherine of Alexandria School in Oak Lawn could help people with Alzheimer’s disease remember their loved ones, and win $20,000 for their school at the same time, with an idea for a smartphone app called “Remember Me.”

Seven girls worked together to research and develop their idea, then create a video demonstrating how it would work to submit to Verizon’s Innovative App Challenge for middle schoolers, said St. Catherine of Alexandria science teacher Carolyn Anderson.

It has been named the best entry from Illinois, and one of three best middle school entries from the Midwest, garnering $5,000 for the school. Now the winners from each of the four regions – a total of 12 teams — go on to compete to be among eight Best in Nation winners, who each receive $15,000 in grants.

Middle schools in 23 states participated in the contest this year, according to the Verizon website.

St. Catherine school parents who work at Verizon brought the contest to the school’s attention, Anderson said, and the school invited students to form teams to come up with ideas. Two teams —one made up of sixthgrade girls and one made up of sixth-grade boys — had their ideas entered in the competition.

The girls’ app uses facial recognition technology and photos to help Alzheimer’s patients remember family, friends, caretakers or even pets. Each photo would have a caption that includes the subject’s name, his or her relationship to the patient and a small bit of information about the person.

“We wanted to make it almost like flashcards,” said Annie Gainer, 12, one of the team members.

She said she and the team used her own family’s experience to help develop the idea. Her grandfather has Alzheimer’s, and her family made a scrapbook to help him remember who was who.

The girls worked with Anderson and other teachers for about a month, meeting after school and at lunch, to develop their concept and make their video, which can be seen on YouTube.

“We wanted to help all families who had someone with Alzheimer’s,” said Isabelle Arquilla, 12, adding that the girls learned through their research that Alzheimer’s disease is more common than breast cancer. A 60- year-old woman has a one-in-six chance of developing Alzheimer’s in her lifetime versus a one-in-11 chance of developing breast cancer, according to the information they presented in their video.

Anderson said she also was impressed with the concept the team of boys submitted: an app that would notify people of outbreaks of contagious diseases in their area, along with information on how to prevent or avoid infection. In addition to Isabelle and

Annie, the girls on the team are: Molly Fineran, Clare Murphy, Bridget Murphy, Ellen Murphy and Autumn Stanke.


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