For start-up companies, university students are an overlooked goldmine. That is the firm conviction of Carsten Brinch Larsen. He is the CTO and co-founder of Memorix: An educational technology start-up company that is developing a tool to aid memorisation. He set up shop in the Copenhagen Science City-based start-up community Symbion and the location has made it easy to recruit students for testing the product and for helping him build the company.By Jes Andersen.
Ancient method updated
Memorix is creating a computer-based tool that makes it easier to learn and use a mnemonics technique known as method of loci or “Memory Palaces”. The ancient Romans knew the method. They would close their eyes and imagine a physical space where they could visually place the words or concepts they needed to recall. There is just one small problem with this antique technique. It is hard to learn, explains Memorix co-founder Herman Kudlich.
Before we started developing our product, we interviewed 50 medical students at University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. Med-students need to memorise like mad, and a lot of the students had heard of method of loci, but did not know how to get started with it”: Herman Kudlich, co-founder, Memorix.
Memorizing walks through virtual worlds
The product Memorix is building provides a virtual world where students can type in the words they need to recall in the space that makes sense for them. One student might choose to place the names of the skulls bones in the sleeping room, because that is where her head gets rest. As an added visual aid, she could choose graphic objects from a menu. For example, a hammer or mallet to remember the word malleus, which is one of the three bones in the ear.
No charge for basics
The memory tool will be free of charge in its most basic configuration. The business model is to sell additional services within the programme. Fully extended, the system can create an individual digital learning profile for the student. It can then tailor a reading schedule based on insights such as what time of day the student is most receptive to learning, what tools work well, how many repetitions are necessary and which types of content makes sense for the individual students.
Tested on medical students
After building their first prototype, Memorix took it back to test it on 60 med-students. They found, that 80 percent of the subjects had 50 percent better recall when they used the tool, explains Carsten Larsen, who is quite proud of this result.
We believe that by helping students with their recall, we can alleviate stress, but there is more. We know from research, that 70 to 80 percent of the knowledge you memorise for an exam disappears within weeks of the examination. We want to help students retain more of their hard won knowledge, so it stays operational”:Carsten Brinch Larsen, CTO and co-founder, Memorix.
Development with House of Practice and Innovation
For Memorix the next important step is to prove that their tool helps information move from short- to long-term memory storage. In order to harvest valid data on extended usage, Memorix needed a group of students, who would use the tool for an extended period. They found such a group through the House of Practice and Innovation at University College Copenhagen, which is a Copenhagen Science City-partner specialising in educating health- and care personell.
“We presented our technology to tutors from the UCC study programmes in nursing and physiotherapy, and they are being extremely helpful in recruiting students for our prolonged test and in assisting our data-harvest”, says Carsten Brinch Larsen.
Recommends hiring students
Co-locating in Copenhagen Science City has been a natural choice for Memorix due to the 20,000 students in the area. These are natural subjects for testing and developing the project. They have also been an invaluable recruiting base for the company.
“Memorix is creating a product by students for students, so hiring them is a natural step for us, but I firmly believe that even companies that have completely different target customers could benefit tremendously by hiring from this group. We have taken on a lot of interns and student assistants from the universities and I would recommend that to other start-ups any day. When we treat these students as equal employees, not as interns, we get tremendous results, and I am really looking forward to being able to take on more of them as permanent staff”, says Larsen.
Memorix aim to have 1,000 university students using the system by December 2019