DU Alumni

Recent alums create app for students with learning disabilities

How do students overcome lifelong learning disabilities? What can be done to make words make sense and to remember them? Inspired by their personal experiences with learning disabilities, two recent DU graduates have developed an app for smart phones and tablets that helps answer these questions.

VoCABit is a “visual vocabulary” app. Users highlight a word, the app finds the definition of the word, and users pick a photo to associate with it. The photos are saved as flashcards in the users’ collection and are accessible in the future.

“I was a terrible student. I was always losing things and doodling,” says voCABit codeveloper Kevin Krom (BA ’12). “The only thing that helped me was drawing pictures that matched what we were learning about, so that’s what we wanted to do with the app.”

Co-developer Tyler Sapkin (BA ’13) agrees. “I was always aware of my disability, but I never had the right tools to deal with it,” says Sapkin, who, like Krom, was diagnosed with a learning disability at a young age. “We developed this app to address a gap. We saw an opportunity and developed a solution.”

Krom and Sapkin met while both were students at DU. “We had a class together winter quarter freshman year,” Sapkin says. “We both lived in Halls and became friends. We would talk about our learning disabilities and tools for visual learners.”

After tossing around several ideas, the two began talking with friends in the computer science program, who set Krom and Sapkin up with Professor Ramki Thurimella. Thurimella teaches multiple computer science classes, including courses in computer security and iOS programming.

“We have no tech background, but Ramki was generous enough to guide us,” Sapkin says. “From refining our idea to launching the app, he really has been a mentor for us.”

Krom and Sapkin graduated in spring 2015 and have since gone on to start their own careers. Krom works in sales at Stack Overflow and Sapkin has started his own marijuana dispensary. “We’ve realized that we need experience to be successful,” Krom says.

The founders are also considering the future of their app. “We got an initial investment from a friend, and we’ve used that up. We are thinking about how we can monetize this without charging for the app,” Sapkin says. “We see opportunities for growth in schools and test prep organizations, but before we do that we want to make sure we have our stuff right. We’re using this time to strategize.”

“We’re just taking it as it comes. Our goal from the get-go was to help other students learn. If we can do that, it’s all worth it,” Krom says.





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