T.C. Students Develop App to Help Teens Cope with Anxiety

Four T.C. Williams students, who developed a game application titled, “Rebudd: A Mental Health App for Adolescents” to help those with anxiety, won the opportunity to present it at the 2017 American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) National Conference earlier this month.

Anxiety is one of the most common, debilitating mental illnesses, especially among youth, affecting about 25 percent of American adolescents 13 to 18 years of age. Affected individuals may experience many symptoms including fear, nervousness, absence from social activities, poor school performance, eating disorders, etc. Mobile games have been an increasingly popular form of treatment for mental illnesses, including anxiety, but current available options are proven to be ineffective and only target prevention. We developed and tested a health app to assist those with stress, nerves, anxious tendencies, or anxiety,” the team shared in their abstract.

T.C. Williams Seniors, Emma Goeas, Grace Hogan, Lane McCaslin and Catherine Mellette were juniors in Jennifer Ushe’s Biotechnology class, which is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program at T.C. when they developed the app. One component of the biotechnology class is a partnership with George Washington University’s (GW) Biomedical Informatics Center, which offers three-week internship at G.W.

The staff at G.W. was extremely helpful in working on this project with us. They let us use conference rooms and would sit with us to help us on our research, so listening to them explain how they work and seeing it was a great experience,” said Grace.

The four students applied to and were selected to participate in the intensive internship at GWU last summer. Using knowledge from Ushe’s class and techniques introduced by Dr. Zeng, Professor of Clinical Research and Leadership at G.W., during their internship, the students created an app for adolescents to reduce anxiety.

The whole premise was to create an app by teens, for teens. We did a rotating drop and catch game where objects fell and you have to catch them. The idea of the game came from our research on anxiety and sensory stimuli, so we used lots of colors and sounds to address anxiety. The game itself is used to refocus your mind when you are feeling anxious,” said Lane.

The students were one of 16 groups to present at the 2017 American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) National Conference in Washington, DC. The conference included educational activities and networking events for high school students and high school teachers participating in educational and research partnerships with biomedical informatics researchers across the United States.

All of the things we researched for this project were so interesting. You never really think about how sensory imagery affects your mood and behavior,” said Catherine.

AMIA is a multi-disciplinary and interprofessional organization and the AMIA Annual Symposium supports the research and practice in the five domains of informatics: translational bioinformatics, clinical research informatics, clinical informatics, consumer health informatics and public health informatics.

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