Rutgers University

Storm/Breaker helps users improve mental health

Rutgers professor Dr. Edward Selby uses psychological research to provide insights into the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors people experience on a daily basis. This iOS app gives people the opportunity to track their emotional and behavioral patterns.


Rutgers University

Visit website

We’re accustomed to using technology to track our health patterns—from counting steps to monitoring our REM sleep cycles.

But what if we could use an app to better understand our mental health triggers and access coping mechanisms?

Dr. Edward Selby partnered with Michigan Software Labs to create Storm/Breaker.

Selby is a faculty member at Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He is a leading psychology expert who specializes in the treatment of suicidal and self-injurious behavior, personality disorders, and eating disorders.

“The better we can understand the underlying causes and dynamics that result in the problems we define as ‘mental illness,’ the better we can design, tailor, and adapt treatments to help improve those underlying problems,” said Selby.

But few mental health apps are developed with such attention to psychological research.

How the app works:

With Storm/Breaker, users first identify emotional “storms” they’re experiencing. They can then choose how many times the app will notify them each day. When it pings, they’re prompted with a brief series of questions about what they’re feeling, where they’re at, and what interpersonal interactions they’ve had.

As users consistently complete their check-ins, the app produces a guide to their unique emotional patterns—helping them make healthier decisions, better manage emotions, and avoid problematic behaviors.

Design and UX considerations:

When Selby first connected with us, he shared his desire for a calming interface. When users are notified to check in on the app, the experience is simple and non-triggering.

To accomplish this, our design team selected a pale, muted color palette rather than bright, bold colors. The logo is a soft yellow sunshine that is also shaped like a brain.

We leaned on our user-centered design experience to suggest additional details for the check-in experience—asking users to log context about who they are with and where they’re at. And we randomized the rating order to keep users engaged and attentive.

Development process:

Through research, we identified more potential iOS users than Android, which influenced our decision to first develop an iOS application.

Our developers used SwiftUI and chose Google’s Firebase—a user-friendly back-end tool—so Selby’s team could continue to make edits and have control over the app’s evolution. Changes can be implemented without pushing out a new version of the app.

Throughout the development process, we held weekly client check-ins, showed product demos, and continued to ask Selby questions to ensure his satisfaction with our progress.

Storm/Breaker officially launched on the App Store in spring 2023, and we’re in discussions about helping Selby create the Android version soon.

The quality of Michigan Software Labs’ deliverables was excellent. They were faithful to the project timeline and identified solutions quickly, even when we had delays due to unforeseen issues. They showed us great mock-ups and video demonstrations of how features should function. I was impressed with their passion and commitment to the project—which isn’t necessarily a core requirement. Rather than just building the app and being done with it, MichiganLabs wanted to see it succeed. Their interest in the project made us feel like they believed in the app as much as we did, helping us identify many potential issues that we hadn’t thought of.

Dr. Edward Selby
Faculty member at Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research

Explore More

Solaire Medical IoT

Ventaire Scope Drying and Tracking Cabinet

View Project
Smart Water Technologies

Smart heating & sanitation water management

View Project