| Arizona Republic
JT Mulvihill liked enjoying soccer. He liked how each second of the sport and each inch gained on the sector mattered.
Then in center college, a genetic situation induced a retinal detachment that left him blind in his left eye. Although he is nonetheless a part of the staff and attends practices, he’s not allowed to play soccer.
However he nonetheless discovered a method to stay concerned with the game.
He has spent the final two years attempting to engineer a safer soccer helmet. His efforts earned him a second place prize this month in the engineering class of a nationwide Science, Know-how, Engineering and Arithmetic (STEM) competitors.
Mulvihill, who’s now a highschool freshman at Arizona School Prep’s Erie campus, was chosen as a finalist from a pool of practically 3,500 candidates for the Broadcom MASTERS 2020 STEM competitors.
For his second-place win, Mulvihill obtained a prize of $2,500 to assist a STEM summer time camp expertise. As an aspiring marine biologist, Mulvihill mentioned he hopes to make use of it for a marine biology camp working with sharks or stingrays.
Mulvihill began his helmet undertaking by inspecting commonplace soccer helmets, which have exhausting plastic exterior coatings and thick airpads lining the within which are supposed to assist take up the shock of being hit.
However even with these safeguards, concussions make up 7.four % of all accidents in school soccer gamers, in line with the Nationwide Collegiate Athletic Affiliation. A separate examine revealed by the American Academy of Pediatrics discovered that soccer had the best charge of concussions amongst highschool sports activities.
“As the game evolves, persons are getting quicker, stronger, greater, and there is a compelling want for a safer soccer helmet,” Mulvihill mentioned as he fiddled with a strong sq. of inexperienced gel.
By designing a safer helmet, he mentioned he hopes extra folks will be capable to play the sport.
“Sooner or later, possibly youngsters like me will be capable to play,” he mentioned.
In his first yr of analysis he examined potential supplies for his helmet prototype earlier than deciding on a particular kind of gel as essentially the most promising one. He is hoping this gel, which has elastic properties, could possibly be the important thing.
It is because the gel evenly disperses the drive of an influence throughout its floor a lot “like a rock hitting the water, or a ripple impact,” he defined.
He used the gel to create three totally different helmet prototypes to match with a daily helmet. For one prototype, he put a skinny layer of gel on the skin of the helmet. For an additional, he put a thick layer of gel on the within. And for the final, he put the gel in each locations.
His extra closely padded prototypes carried out higher in opposition to low-impact hits, however they did worse on high-impact hits. He believes it is as a result of they weighed extra. A helmet that is too heavy might additionally put pointless stress on gamers’ heads, neck and shoulders.
“What I will attempt to do is create a stability … If we might discover the right weight and the right stability between gels, it will likely be actually good at excessive influence and low influence,” he mentioned.
To check his prototypes, Mulvihill traveled to Virginia Tech’s Helmet Lab. There, he repeatedly battered the helmets with a machine that labored like a large swinging hammer and used a particular gadget to measure the ensuing acceleration forces.
“It was superior,” he mentioned with a smile. “I realized rather a lot … I realized the best way to learn an influence graph and simply quite a lot of science normally.”
COMPETING: Three Arizona startups compete in worldwide bioscience competitors
His undertaking might have essential functions for different sports activities akin to lacrosse, soccer, or hockey, in line with Maya Ajmera, the president and CEO of the Society for Science and the Public, which companions with the Broadcom Basis to run the competitors.
“He is utilizing science and engineering to remain within the sport,” she mentioned. “We stay up for seeing how he takes his undertaking additional.”
The subsequent step for Mulvihill might be to strive a honeycomblike design for the gel on the within of the helmet. He believes this might make the helmet lighter whereas additionally rising its protecting qualities.
He thinks he nonetheless has a protracted method to go earlier than determining the most effective helmet design.
“It isn’t good but, however possibly at some point it could possibly be,” he mentioned.
Amanda Morris covers all issues bioscience, which incorporates well being care, know-how, new analysis and the atmosphere. Ship her suggestions, story concepts, or canine memes at firstname.lastname@example.org and observe her on Twitter @amandamomorris for the most recent bioscience updates.
Unbiased protection of bioscience in Arizona is supported by a grant from the Flinn Basis.
Help native journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com immediately.