Without a doubt, technology has changed the way we approach everyday life as a society.
We see things on a larger scale, and how new inventions have impacted those around us. Typically, technological breakthroughs impact larger communities across the world and often find their way to areas like southern Ohio more slowly.
But with the advent of 3D printing and its widespread growth, our area has already discovered what the future holds in a rapidly developing field.
In the small community of Rock Hill, this has recently come to fruition.
Last Saturday, Rock Hill sophomore TJ McGinnis traveled to the University of Cincinnati’s football game against Temple to meet up with 2013 Rock Hill graduate Eden Barcus.
The two weren’t just taking in the action between the Bearcats and the Owls at Nippert Stadium. There was something big set to unfold, something greater than the game itself.
That’s where the tale of TJ begins.
McGinnis was born without a right hand. That hasn’t stopped him from playing football, bowling, and running track at Rock Hill. He’s also maintained a 4.0 GPA.
Beyond those hobbies, McGinnis has a genuine interest in biomedical engineering, much like Barcus who will graduate with a degree in the field this spring.
Though McGinnis and Barcus didn’t go to school together, they both knew each other well. Barcus’ twin brothers are in the same grade as McGinnis, and over the years the families have grown close.
“I remember them playing flag football and in my church’s basketball league together,” Barcus said. “I’ve kind of seen TJ grow up … Rock Hill is a small community, you kind of know everybody.”
An opportunity presented itself for Barcus to later help McGinnis in her first year at Cincinnati, but the freshman wasn’t quite ready just yet.
“My engineering teacher from Rock Hill had contacted me my freshman or sophomore year of college and was like “Hey, you know TJ McGinnis? He’s really interested in biomedical engineering and 3D printing his own prosthetic, would you be able to help?” and I was like no absolutely not yet,” Barcus said. “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
With practice and time, though, Barcus could get a grasp on 3D printing and lend a hand to a family friend, literally and figuratively.
Her exposure to the equipment on campus at Cincinnati gave her chances to learn how to design and implement objects with a 3D printer.
“I use 3D printing a lot,” Barcus said. “At UC, we have mandatory co-ops, so it’s kind of like paid internships.”
“I used 3D printers in those, and I’ve taken three or four design classes throughout my time at UC. I’ve had to use 3D printers for I think every single one of those classes.”
That additional education and training prepared Barcus to help McGinnis her junior year, and let McGinnis see what a 3D printer could do firsthand.
“The first time I watched one work was at Cincinnati last year with Eden,” McGinnis said. “I didn’t even know it really existed until about last year when I was actually introduced to a 3D printer.”
Barcus built a prototype last year with the help of her engineering club, and knew McGinnis would be a perfect fit.
“We gave TJ his first hand last year,” Barcus said. “Last year was the first academic year that our club really took off, and we were kind of [looking] for any ideas of patients.”
“I texted his mom Angie and asked if TJ would be interested. His family was pretty ecstatic to partner with us.”
As could be expected, there was a lot that came with putting together the prototype and making it into a reality.
“Printing it alone probably took about 20 hours, but assembling it is less than two hours,” Barcus said. “The design work varies, we kind of already had the design set in place so we just had to modify it a little bit. Designing it really takes the most time, and printing it takes a lot of time as well.”
It was time well spent, however. Not only did Barcus and her club provide something for McGinnis in the present, they also inspired him for the future.
McGinnis hopes to follow in Barcus’ footsteps and study biomedical engineering when he gets to college.
“I’d like to go to college for biomedical engineering, and would like to either run track or play football in college too,” McGinnis said. “I would like to help people out the same way they’ve helped me.”
Last Saturday offered McGinnis to take a close look at Cincinnati, and allowed a unique experience on the football field.
Between the first and second quarters, McGinnis took to the field to throw football with Cincinnati Athletic Director Mike Bohn.
The experience was an incredible moment for both McGinnis and Barcus, seeing in person what the hand could do.
“It was really cold and it kind of numbed everything, and I was really nervous when I first got down there but I calmed down a lot,” McGinnis said. “It was pretty cool.”
“I got a VIP experience, and it was a really good experience actually. I had fun.”
Barcus joined McGinnis on the field, and got the privilege of meeting some important people at her university.
“The game was crazy,” Barcus said. “We got to meet a bunch of donors and a bunch of really high up people, and we got to sit in our president’s suite the whole night.”
While the hand has been a huge help to McGinnis, he plays sports without it.
“I don’t play football with it, usually I just use it around the house,” McGinnis said. “In football, they have special rules about prosthetics and it makes everything tougher, so I play all sports without it.”
“It works all in one motion, so all fingers together which makes it hard to hold like a pencil. I just try to do easy stuff with it first, I’m not really good with it.”
Having only one hand hasn’t been a limitation for McGinnis, either. He has had success in every sport he has played, and is closing in on the history books in one sport at his school.
“I’m only a few feet away from the school record in track, so I’m looking forward to this year,” McGinnis said about his pursuit of the discus record at Rock Hill.
For Barcus, she hopes to find a job in her field upon graduating.
“I want to go into the industry right away, so hopefully I’ll be working for a medical device company,” Barcus said.
Technology is always evolving and changing at a rapid pace. It seems widespread, but in fact is revolutionizing the way we live each and every day.
Even in a small community like Rock Hill, the impact has been felt. Technology changed the life of TJ McGinnis, and all it took was an alum of the Redmen in Barcus and her team to turn a dream into a reality.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer