Computer science student develops Anaphylaxis Canada’s first mobile app

Whether it’s to help others learn or enhance their lives, people from all over the world have been creating apps for altruistic purposes. And 19-year-old Nick Pothier is one of them. The University of New Brunswick student, who suffers from life-threatening food allergies, recently entered the app-making business to help other teens with food allergies.

Pothier, who is in his third year studying computer science at UNB, developed a food allergy education app, called WhyRiskIt?, which launched this month in partnership with Anaphylaxis Canada.
The app, which is free and currently only available on Android devices, is aimed at helping pre-teens, teens and young adults learn more about serious food allergies, and offering tips to live safely with allergies.

“Like most computer science students, [Pothier] sees the opportunities that mobile apps can create for young developers,” notes an August 2013 statement from Anaphylaxis Canada. “However, [he] has channeled his knowledge of app-making for good – not profit.”

In an interview with BetaKit, Pothier explains that he has been contending with a severe peanut allergy for most of his life. “I had this belief that it was tough living with allergies,” he says. “I wanted to spread awareness of allergies.”

As a member of Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel for the past five years, he notes that “we were trying to find new ways to communicate with young people” about living safely with food allergies.
Then, in November of last year, an idea popped into his head: taking things digital to get the word out among teens. “When I saw my teenage sister and her friends carry around [their] phones, I thought ‘Why not use their phones as an educational tool?’” he says.

After pitching the idea for Anaphylaxis Canada’s first mobile app and conducting a survey with the rest of the Youth Advisory Panel, Pothier got to work developing the app. “From there, I learned the Android SDK and made a prototype,” he says. “By March, I was programming the app. After many, many revisions, it (is) ready to go out.”

Now, the app is available on the Google Play store in both Canada and the US. Upon downloading it, the app gives you three options, explains Pothier. It features a live stream of blog posts, stories, and advice from other allergic youth on the panel. It also includes information for youth living with food allergies, including signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, treatment and emergency procedures.
Thirdly, it also offers information on Anaphylaxis Canada, the panel and how to get involved.
Pothier hopes the app will provide easy to access information for teens with allergies that will enable them to take fewer risks with their allergies. “I believe this app will be very effective for educating teens about allergies since more and more are owning cell phones and tablets which go everywhere with them,” he says.

He notes that they also plan to release the app on BlackBerry devices by the end of the month and, ultimately, on iOS devices as well.

“It’s incredible the amount of time he put into this app, as well as our Youth Advisory Panel who reviewed it every step of the way,” Kyle Dine, Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Project Coordinator, says. “This is truly an app made by allergic youth, for allergic youth.”

Samuel Dunsiger

Samuel Dunsiger

Samuel is a freelance journalist and communicator from Toronto. He covers a range of topics such as occupational health and safety, education and technology. His work has appeared in OHS Canada magazine, Jobpostings magazine, York Region papers The Liberal and The Markham Economist and Sun, and on blogTO. Samuel also freelances for Coderella Consulting, a San Francisco-based PR agency and, in his spare time, serves as Communications Director for Stutter Social, an online support group that uses Google+ Hangouts to connect people who stutter worldwide.