SURE Student Placement with AcTo Dementia

Ella Davenport, an undergraduate Psychology student at The University of Sheffield, recently completed a summer vacation scholarship working on the AcTo Dementia project. This scholarship was organised by Think Ahead SURE (Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience) and funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council). In this article, Ella discusses her experience joining the research team and working on this project.

Ella Davenport reviewing dementia friendly app Free To Fit
After reaching my second year of university, and still unsure as to what career path I wanted to pursue, the Think Ahead SURE scheme offered me the opportunity to gain valuable research experience. Following an application process, I was lucky enough to be selected to work with Phil Joddrell on the AcTo dementia project. The project includes a website, which suggests apps that are accessible for people with dementia and which they may enjoy playing. In order to identify such apps, a review criteria has been developed to evaluate the appropriateness of the apps, based on their customisation options and presence of advertisements among others things.
Hangman by Critical Hit Software
Free To Fit by Nguyen Quang Sang
The objective of my placement was to identify at least 20 apps using this review criteria and write reviews for each of these, to be published on the AcTo Dementia website. These apps included both classic games, such as Chess and Hangman (pictured), as well as novel games including 1010 (pictured) and Stack Box. When writing the reviews, I included the pros and cons of each app and the recommended settings; for example, whether the user would be able to change the background colour and if this would improve the contrast and clarity of the game. In addition to identifying games people may enjoy, I also looked into other types of downloadable apps, such as those focused on music and cookery, to provide more variety for people visiting the website.
Alongside using the review criteria, I have also been evaluating its reliability. I have looked at the inter-rater reliability between the many people who have used these criteria, generally finding values of above 0.8, which are considered very respectable.  The end of the scheme is marked by a conference style, academic presentation for other students on the Think Ahead SURE scheme. This will be good experience, as I feel this summer has furthered my interest in postgraduate study, which would require me to deliver presentations in this style, and answer questions on the spot.
I have enjoyed my time spent working within CATCH and alongside Phil, and have found it to be very valuable, teaching me more about life as a researcher and as a PhD student. In addition, I would highly recommend the Think Ahead SURE scheme, especially to students who are unsure as to what they want to go on to do. The scheme has allowed me to better my understanding of how research is conducted, including applications for funding and ethics. Finally, I would like to thank Phil and CATCH for a great 8 weeks, and making me feel so welcome.