For the past few years, John Holtgrewe has contemplated feet—specifically, those of his great-grandmother.
Let us explain.
Last summer, John attended the Kentucky Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs (GSE). He gained acceptance after submitting an idea for a device aiding people with neuropathy. The condition affects nerves and can impair a person’s ability to feel pain in their feet. His great-grandmother suffered from it.
"She had problems because she had cuts that went unnoticed, which became infected," he says. "So, she eventually lost her feet because the infections became so bad."
Her medical issue inspired John to look for a solution. He thought of a device that could use software similar to that designed for facial recognition technology to help elderly neuropathy patients check for abrasions.
He says he originally came up with the idea in middle school when he entered the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a nation-wide science competition. There, he ranked among the top ten entries. After he entered Paducah Tilghman High School, the same idea got him into GSE. As a participant, he led a group of other students as they developed and presented the idea in competition against other GSE attendees. They won first place.
Although he’s only a junior, John thinks he might continue this focus on the body. He’s considering a major in biomechanical engineering so he can study how the body moves.
However, he hasn’t made any decisions yet. At the moment, the eclectic student still enjoys winning trophies and titles with Paducah Tilghman’s track and soccer teams and competing on the academic and speech teams. He also volunteers at the Baptist Health Paducah gift shop, where his father works, and he has donated time to the Greater Paducah Sustainability Project, the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, and the Paducah Cooperative Ministry.
"It’s just something that my parents have passed down to me," he says. "They like to be involved a lot and have taught me that it’s good to be involved in your community and to help out others as much as possible."
And John has devoted plenty of energy to helping others—through his volunteering and through his entrepreneurial ideas. He says he doesn’t know if his neuropathy device will ever be made, but he would love it if it could improve life for patients.