University students design focus trainer to help students study

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 5 percent of children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Focusing can be a really challenge for some people. To help deal with this phenomenon, a group of University students recently created ThinkSuite to train people to focus better.

ThinkSuite is a collection of applications designed to improve focus, mood and knowledge retention and to replace current media that people already use, said Austin Walters, ThinkSuite cofounder and senior in Engineering. At ThinkSuite, he develops software and does most of the research in the field of computer vision.

Walters has been working on the project for one year and now collaborates with Jennifer Kokkines, a senior in LAS studying neuroscience, and Robert Seaton, who takes care of data analysis.

The basic features of ThinkSuite can be divided into three sections: an ebook reader, music player and focus trainer.

Walters said the ebook reader can automatically take notes on pages when users lose focus and generate flash cards for unfamiliar words.

Kokkines described the music player as a “mood-based media player” because it integrates the user’s music libraries and creates a playlist based on how the user wants to feel.

Walters compared ThinkSuite to a fitness training program, but for training people to focus better.

“You don’t need the fitness trainer all the time; you only need them for a few months,” Walters said. “And after that, you are like, ‘OK, I know how to do this,’ and then you can do it.”

The software is designed in different tiers: from the free primary tier, to the more expensive top tier, which requires an electroencephalogram, a test that detects electrical activity in the brain, to help people who have ADHD.

ThinkSuite provides an alternative to those with extreme cases, Walters said, and can help them address their problems by training them to focus without risking any side effects.

The end goal is to have ThinkSuite in classrooms, where teachers can identify students who have issues and then provide extra help.

Walters said the idea for ThinkSuite came from studying and working as a computer science major. Depression is common in software development, Walters said, and he assumed this is because people in the field are more likely to work independently.

“So no one really noticed if we were depressed, no one noticed if we start to lose focus, no one noticed anything,” Walters said.

Qiaosi Liu, sophomore in Engineering, said she sometimes has trouble studying alone because it is easier for her to get distracted. However, she said working with others can be even more distracting because she ends up talking to them.

Liu also said most programmer’s have their own way of solving problems, and working with others can sometimes complicate and slow down the process.

Anyone can have problems with focusing, Walters said, so ThinkSuite allows users to address the problem easily.

“Basically there’s a large number of people that have trouble studying, and we just want to make it better and easier to study so people can improve their grades,” Walters said.

However, Walters mentioned two major problems the group ran into during the development period: people doubting their software and financial support. To address these problems, the ThinkSuite founders are looking at multiple ways to get funding.

They started a fundraising project on Kickstarter on Feb. 24, and as of press time have raised $2,021 out of their $12,000 goal. The group has advanced in this year’s Cozad New Venture Competition, which encourages students to create their own businesses. The winners will be announced on April 24.

During the development period, the team received help from both on and off-campus sources. Walters currently works with the Bretl Research Group and at the Association for Computing Machinery, both of which have access to the electroencephalogram.

Kokkines said with the help of ThinkSuite, people with ADHD can feel comfortable improving their studies in their own time and space without any stigmas attached.

“We want to create a way where people didn’t have to go to the doctor, but can still get help in some way to help them focus and improve their grades and without this stigma that comes with it in society,” Walters said.

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