On Thursday, February 25th, 2016, my son, Josh Smith, Founder and CEO of Handizap, was honored to receive the 2015 STEM Catalyst Award for his invention of the Sixth Digit from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe at a ceremony held at the Science Museum of Virginia. Josh was thrilled to have the Science Museum of Virginia and Governor McAuliffe recognize him as a “Virginia citizen whose passion, ingenuity, and efforts inspire others to recognize the power of STEM to improve our world”. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Josh, who was a 2013 Mechanical Engineering graduate from Virginia Tech University, worked for a short while as a nuclear engineer at Norfolk Naval Shipyard before changing jobs in March 2014. It was then he began working for Old Dominion Insulation as a manager/project estimator and relocated to Arlington, VA.
Josh began work on the Sixth Digit while in inpatient rehab at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia after sustaining a broken neck and spinal cord injury from a diving accident on August 23, 2014. Very early in his recovery process, Josh’s engineering mind began working on a solution to type on a computer keyboard to be able to do his job. He was initially given voice activation software but found it was extremely sensitive to surrounding sounds and did not allow him to listen to music while he worked. I will never forget him calling me while I was at CVS Pharmacy and asking me to buy two Ring Pops. After returning with the Ring Pops he quickly ate the candy and put erasers heads on the ring stems. Thus the first prototype of what is now known as the Sixth Digit, an adjustable ring stylus that can be used on keyboards, buttons, and any touchscreen devices, was developed. After returning home from rehab in January 2015, he soon founded his business Handizap to market the Sixth Digit.
In March, Josh and an old high school friend, Jared Rhodes, began a Kickstarter campaign to finance the manufacture of his invention. Soon thereafter, I began working on a sales and marketing strategy for the product. Twice Josh’s story about his injury and invention was carried by a local news station which lead to national and then global attention. In less than a year, Josh was able to take his idea from conception to completion and in September our Handizap Team of three began shipping the product to multiple states and countries. While this in itself is quite an achievement, the fact that Josh was still recovering from a catastrophic injury made this feat even more amazing.
Josh was truly humbled and honored to be the recipient of the 2015 STEM Catalyst Award. He also hopes to create other products in the future to continue helping individuals living with disabilities. His motto since rehab has been “stop wishing and start doing”. He has been doing and doing since that fateful day in August 2014! I could not be a prouder mom and look forward to continuing to work with him as part of the Handizap Team. Though Josh never thought his invention would receive such attention and recognition, all of us who know Josh and his imagination, determination, and drive, never doubted for a second that he would be successful in whatever he put his hands to in spite of the daily challenges he faces as a quadriplegic. As one friend and engineer told him while he was at Shepherd, “you are only limited by your imagination”. I believe Josh’s creative mind and limitless energy have already taken him extremely far since his injury.
And his story is still unfolding…
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0516/0209