MORGAN PARK — Chuck Lavin, 82, smiled as he sat surrounded by a group of sixth-grade girls on Monday in the lobby of the Smith Village Retirement Community in Morgan Park.
One of the seven girls standing beside him at 2320 W. 113th Place was his granddaughter, Annie Gainer, 12, of south suburban Oak Lawn.
But Lavin, a Smith Village resident, would be hard pressed to pick her out of the group.
Lavin suffers from Alzheimer's disease. His memory loss been gradual. Two years ago, family members were asked to make a detailed scrapbook, including pictures of Lavin's children, grandchildren, friends and relatives along with their names.
Lavin was encouraged to study this picture book in an effort to retain as much information as possible.
This scrapbook was an inspiration to Annie. She soon enlisted the help of six classmates from St. Catherine's of Alexandria School and Parish in Oak Lawn and entered the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.
Howard Ludwig explains how the app would work:
For the contest, the girls spelled out plans for their Remember Me app, which works much like the scrapbook. The swipeable app displays photos of family and friends while listing their names, ages, hobbies and other pertinent information below.
The free app will also feature facial recognition software, so the patient or a caregiver can snap a photo of a family member to determine his or her name and relationship.
The students' app was chosen in early January by Verizon as the top elementary school submission from Illinois. Shortly thereafter, the Remember Me app was selected as one of the top three apps from the Midwest region, earning the Catholic school $5,000.
On Tuesday, the app designers expect learn if they are one of four nationwide winners.
If selected, the classmates will travel to Dallas for two days in June and work with developers to bring their app to life. St. Catherine's School will also receive an additional $15,000 to be used to buy items meant to teach science, technology, engineering and math or STEM.
"Nurses usually recommend people with Alzheimer's create a memory book. This would be easier," Annie said.
In addition to the money for the school, each of the seven girls will also be awarded a Samsung Galaxy Tab computer should their Remember Me app be chosen as the national winner.
Once they are all developed, the top app will be chosen based on the number of downloads.
The girls credited their eighth-grade science teacher Carolyn Anderson and sixth grade social studies teacher Sean Haneberg for guiding them through the contest.
The group began working on their submission in October. They compiled a video and essay describing their app and later met with judges via a webinar.
If their name is called on Tuesday, the St. Catherine's students would hold another distinction among their remaining competitors.
"We are the youngest of all the groups," said Isabelle Arquilla, 11, of Oak Lawn.
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