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JT Mulvihill tests his football helmet prototypes at Virginia Tech’s Helmet Lab. (Photo: Courtesy of Taragh Mulvihill)

JT Mulvihill loved playing football. He loved how every second of the game and every inch gained on the field mattered.

Then in middle school, a genetic condition caused a retinal detachment that left him blind in his left eye. Though he’s still part of the team and attends practices, he is no longer allowed to play football.

But he still found a way to remain involved with the sport.

He has spent the last two years trying to engineer a safer football helmet. His efforts earned him a second place prize this month in the engineering category of a national Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competition.

Mulvihill, who is now a high school freshman at Arizona College Prep’s Erie campus, was selected as a finalist from a pool of nearly