Inspired by a personal challenge, a group of five Open Window School seventh and eighth graders designed a concept for an app that would help those affected by neurological disorders by providing musical therapy for speech, movement, and memory rehabilitation. They submitted their idea, NeuroNote, to the Verizon Innovative App Challenge and were one of six schools in the entire western United States to win Best in Region.
The idea was inspired by eighth grader Ayush Noori, whose grandmother was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy or PSP, a relatively rare progressive neurological disorder. Driven by the impact of PSP in his own family and the understanding of the problem of degenerative neurological disorders in the wider community, Noori enlisted the aid of classmates Sage Khanuja, Lizzy Park, Keating Rowe, and Seth Yager to work on an app that would offer rehabilitative treatment to patients. The team, mentored by Innovative and Technology Assistant, Maria DiGiovanni, began the research process, reaching out to experts and exploring current therapies for those faced with neurological decline. They discovered that though music therapy is an approach that has been proven successful, there are currently no apps that utilize music therapy on the device that most have access to, the smart phone.
The students’ work has already caught the attention of CurePSP, a national organization dedicated to fighting prime of life neurodegenerative diseases. Cure PSP board member and Johns Hopkins University researcher, Dr. Alexander Pantelyat noted that he was “tremendously impressed” with the students’ proposal and that they were “very much on point in their analysis of the needs of PSP patients.” A critical aspect of therapy is the need to engage patients as PSP often leads to apathy and isolation, and an app can be ideal for engagement. CurePSP has expressed an interest in partnering with the students to develop the app and make it available to patients.
Open Window’s Head of School, Jeff Stroebel, congratulated the students on their efforts, noting that it was an excellent example of how students can be engaged in solving real-world problems and using their talents to benefit society.
About the Verizon Innovative App Challenge
“The App Challenge is a nationwide contest for middle- and high-school-aged students that challenges them to develop concepts for mobile apps that solve a problem in their community. It’s a unique, hands-on learning program that teaches collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, and entrepreneurship, as well as STEM skills and coding. Its aim is to equip students with skills needed to succeed in the jobs of the future, delivering to students the promise of a brighter future.” (http://appchallenge.tsaweb.org/how-to-enter)