Middle school students develop app to help people suffering from memory loss

They're only in eighth grade, but a group of Hudson Middle School students has a big idea to change lives through technology.

The enterprising teenagers developed an app that helps people suffering from dementia and memory loss and will head this week to Knoxville, Tennessee to show off their invention in the Global Finals competition of Destination Imagination.

The app is called “Cortex.” 14-year-old Liam Thoreson came up with the idea after the pain of a fading memory touched his own family. 

“My great grandma, who was having struggles with her memory loss, almost didn't have her 90th birthday,” Thoreson said. 

When Thoreson told the group about his idea, they quickly realized that same pain had also touched many of their lives. 

“My grandma had dementia but it was kind of cool to see that it's actually a pretty big problem that many people kind of underestimate,” said eighth grader Ella Schienle. 

Cortex has several features, including a virtual white board for reminders and a list of tasks as simple as “brush your teeth.”

“A lot of the functionality came from us interviewing our family members," Thoreson said. "So we interviewed our family members. 'What would you want in an app to assist people with memory loss?' And one of them was a white board for people to jot down things. That's actually one of the things that they were doing with my great grandma, is using a white board to jot down things.”

The app also lets users give one-word demands like “help” or “emergency.” Once a task is finished, it can alert a caretaker or family member. 

“They often forget what order their daily tasks go in, or even just what their daily tasks are,” Thoreson said.

“We've seen them struggle, and they are your family member, so we want to help them, and we want to make life easier for them so now we can do that,” Schienle said.

The app is now available on Android with plans to be in the Apple App Store soon. It already has some downloads, including a few from other countries. 

“I just think it's kind of cool that we, as eighth graders, have created this whole app and it's kind of blown up a little bit and we can help a lot of people,” Schienle said.