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Honors student Abigayle Peterson develops new wellness app for the Apple Store

by Aidan Wiess
Office of University Communications intern
  • side by side of Abigayle Peterson and features of Abigayle's app Magnify

Western Freshman Abigayle Peterson has developed “Magnify Wellness,” a free mental wellness app available on the iOS app store.  

The app, which will also be available on the Android store this winter, includes eight features meant to develop and maintain mental wellness and resilience. These features include a chatbot named Maggie, journal entries, uplifting quotes, advice guidance, counseling, a game and requests for prayer.  

“To the people who have felt lost, unloved, or powerless, the Magnify Wellness app is for you,” Peterson said. According to Peterson, an Honors Program student from Poulsbo who hopes to major in Computer Science, the quotes are meant to serve as words of encouragement. Additionally, the video game component is meant to relieve stress and promote relaxation through what Peterson describes as a healthy distraction.   

“Maggie the chatbot serves as a constant 24/7 friend to have a conversation with, joke around, and learn new mental health facts together,” Peterson said. “She uses machine-learning with a focus on natural language processing to form her responses to the user.” 

The gratitude journal is meant to help users reflect on what matters in their lives. “Personally, I still keep a diary and record my personal feelings associated with that day. I also enjoy writing positive notes to myself in order to remind myself how strong I am for just making it through another day,” Peterson said.  

According to Peterson, the journal entry features randomly generated prompts that are meant to encourage deep thinking that will help users better understand themselves.  

“When someone uses the journal, they can freely write their personal thoughts and experiences without being in fear of judgment or shame,” Peterson said.  

Peterson wrote the advice guide herself and based the information from organizations such as We Are Urban and We’re Not Really Strangers.  

“I believe in the power of empathy which helps us understand each other better. Once our society begins to listen rather than argue, the world shifts towards a kinder and more inclusive place to live in. ‘Magnify Wellness,’ in particular, creates its own community through the warmth of the in-app features and our outreach events,” Peterson said.  

She went on to say that the services featured in the Gateway Counseling Center primarily provide therapeutic services in areas like marriage, drug addiction, anxiety, self-esteem issues and more.  

“Oftentimes, people who struggle are unable to find the right wellness service or resource that suits them personally,” Peterson said.  

Peterson started to code the app during high school.  

“Early in high school, I was thrown into uncontrollable situations that drastically challenged my mental wellbeing, and I didn't know who to reach out to for help. I didn't feel safe,” Peterson said. “I didn't know what affordable resources were available for people like me who needed the encouragement that everything will be okay. I coded and published ‘Magnify Wellness’ because I desire to create the future my past-self wanted to live in.” 

Western Washington University Professor of Computer Science Perry Fizzano said the timing of Peterson's project couldn't be better.

“There are many wellness and health apps available, but it's still a great contribution because especially now with COVID, BLM protests, and elections, it's a time of great uncertainty and stress in the world,” said Fizzano.

Peterson said she couldn't have finished the project or continued forward to market it without a team of more than 70 people who have contributed to its success.  

Peterson also said that she leads bi-weekly meetings where everyone congregates together to go over the accomplishments and improvements that they’ve taken on -- accomplishments that haven’t gone unnoticed. 

“I've been featured by notable organizations such as Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation: Channel Kindness, Unsinkable Youth, Reinvented Inc, STEAMChangers, and tons more,” Peterson said. She will also be featured in an upcoming episode of CNBC's Advancement TV to talk about how she turned her passion for computer science into action. 

Peterson said other WWU students are also helping develop and manage the app; freshman Harrison Toppen-Ryan is the director of finance and junior Katie Taylor is a web developer.  

Fizzano said the project teaches real-world team based project design that will benefit all the students when they leave Western and beyond.

“In short, I think it's awesome to see students create things,” Fizzano said. “One of the unique things about computer science that I always try to instill in my students is that even as a first-year student (which Abby is) you can take an idea from your imagination to implementation and make an impact.”  

Peterson said she is far from done or being ready to rest on her laurels. 

“My next project is ‘Magnify Wellness Version 2.0: Community From Within.’ This will involve machine-learning that matches the user to mental health resources, and a new UI/UX layout.” 

For more information about the Magnify Wellness project, contact Abigayle Peterson at peter423@wwu.edu. 

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Wednesday, November 4, 2020 - 10:41am

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