Chandler 8th grader a finalist in national STEM competition

JT Mulvihill (Society for Science and the Public/Courtesy)

PHOENIX — A serious eye problem may have forced a Chandler teen to give up playing football, but he’s using an interest in science and engineering to make a difference in the game he loves.

JT Mulvihill, a 14-year-old student at Arizona College Prep in Chandler, is working on designing a safer football helmet.

Mulvihill’s research has earned him a spot as a finalist in the 2020 Broadcom MASTERS, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics middle school competition that is one of the most prestigious in the country.

He’s working to maximize the helmet’s ability to withstand different kinds of forces, such as direct and frontal hits, using lining and coating materials that could cushion an impact, according to the competition’s official website.

Mulvihill has been conducting trials on several different helmets using visco-elastic gel polymer, a type of plastic, and a pendulum swing at different speeds to simulate impact.

Accelerometers were also placed in a testing head to measure changes in acceleration and detect shifts.

He believes weight seems to affect the performance of the helmets and said the lighter exterior coated helmet performed the best.

The next step is testing a honeycomb design for the lining or coating of the helmet, according to the website, with hope of lightening the helmet’s weight while still providing protection for the player.

Mulvihill, as one of 30 finalists in the competition, received a $500 cash reward and will be competing for over $100,000 in prizes.

His science research project will be judged virtually during the competition lasting from Oct. 16 to 21.

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