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Young inventor who wowed Obama faces health crisis

USA Today Network Kaila White, The Arizona Republic Published 8:00 p.m. ET March 24, 2017 | Updated 57 minutes ago

Joey Hudy

Joey Hudy, pictured in October 2016 with his mother Julie's dog, Molly. (Photo: Julie Hudy/Special for The Republic)

PHOENIX — The international "maker" community is rallying around Joey Hudy, a 20-year-old from Arizona widely known for wowing President Obama in 2012 with his high-powered marshmallow cannon.

Hudy was diagnosed with schizophrenia earlier this year.

At 14, Hudy made international headlines when Obama talked him into shooting a marshmallow across the State Dining Room of the White House during the White House Science Fair.

Then, at 16, he became Intel's youngest intern. That year he also was a guest of first lady Michelle Obama at the 2014 State of the Union Address.

"He kind of became the poster boy for young makers and kids making," said Sherry Huss, co-founder of Maker Faire. Makers are people who bring do-it-yourself spirit to technology, usually hardware such as robotics.

News of Joey's diagnosis began to spread among the maker community this month after Joey's sister, Elizabeth, created a GoFundMe to raise money for his treatment.

A beloved inventor

"He’s very well known primarily because he was the boy that grew up in front of everyone’s eyes," Huss said. As a teen, Joey spoke and appeared at Maker Faires, which are essentially conventions for makers, in Paris, Rome, and Shenzhen, China.

Young inventor who wowed Obama faces health crisis

Joey Hudy of Anthem launches his "Extreme Marshmallow Cannon" with help from President Barack Obama at the White House Science Fair in 2012.   (Photo: Saul Loab/Getty Images)

He was first inspired to become a maker after he met Adam Savage, former co-host of the Discovery Channel's MythBusters , at a Maker Faire in 2010. Huss also met Joey at the same faire, she said.

"I watched Joey grow up," Huss said. "I feel that he has been an inspiration to other kids. He’s a big part of our community."

A surprising diagnosis

Joey left Arizona State University's engineering program in June to move to China to work for Seeed Studio, an electronics manufacturing company based in Shenzhen.

In January, he began experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, so his family brought him home from China for treatment. His parents stayed in Ohio for a month near his treatment center and helped move him to one in Tennessee, where he is now.

Schizophrenia is a complex, long-term and serious mental illness "that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others," according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

It affects about 1% of Americans and tends to appear in men during their late teens to early 20s.

"This is all kind of a shock to everyone," his mother, Julie Hudy, told The Arizona Republic Wednesday. "I can’t seem to go through a second without thinking of what he’s doing how he’s doing. It’s just kind of consumed us."

Mounting medical bills

"I had no idea it was this expensive to

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Tennessee bills teen to replace guardrail that killed her

USA Today Network Travis Dorman, Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel 7:20 p.m. ET March 24, 2017

CLOSE Tennessee bills teen to replace guardrail that killed her
Tennessee bills teen to replace guardrail that killed her

A Loudon County man is advocating for changes after the Tennessee Department of Transportation billed his dead daughter nearly $3,000 to replace the guardrail that killed her in a car accident last November. Travis Dorman

032417hannah-eimers.jpg

Hannah Eimers, 17, of Lenoir City, Tenn., was killed Nov. 1, 2016, when her driver's side door hit the end of a guardrail that impaled the car she was driving. (Photo: Courtesy of Steven Eimers)

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. — The state of Tennessee has billed a dead teen nearly $3,000 to replace the guardrail that killed her in a car crash in November.

Her flabbergasted father said that he not only would not pay but also contends that the model of guardrail that struck his daughter was poorly designed and dangerous.

Around 5:44 a.m. ET Nov. 1, Hannah Eimers, 17, was driving her father's 2000 Volvo S80 on Interstate 75 northbound near Niota, Tenn., when the car left the road, traveled into the median and hit the end of a guardrail with the driver's side door, according to a Tennessee Highway Patrol crash report.

Instead of deflecting the car or buckling to absorb the impact, the guardrail end impaled the vehicle, striking the teen in the head and chest and pushing her into the back seat, according to the report. She died instantly.

► Related: Guardrail crash test failed, engineering expert says

Four months later, Steven Eimers of Lenoir City received a $2,970 bill from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, dated Feb. 24 and addressed to Hannah for the cost of labor and materials to install 25 feet of guardrail at the scene of the crash.

"I’m shocked, the audacity," he said. "What bothers me is that they’re playing Russian roulette with people's lives. They know these devices do not perform at high speeds and in situations like my daughter’s accident, but they leave them in place."

“What bothers me is that they’re playing Russian roulette with people's lives. They know these devices do not perform at high speeds and in situations like my daughter’s accident, but they leave them in place.”

Steven Eimers, Lenoir City, Tenn.

The guardrail end Hannah hit was a Lindsay X-LITE, a model that the state transportation department had removed from its approved products list just one week earlier.

The bill was the result of "a mistake somewhere in processing," and the department "greatly apologizes for it," spokesman Mark Nagi said. Another letter is being sent to explain the error.

The transportation department's removal of the model from its product list means the agency will not use it in new installations, but roughly 1,000 guardrail ends remain on Tennessee roads, Nagi said.

On March 31, the department will begin accepting bids for a contract to remove most of them in places where the speed limit exceeds 45 mph, Nagi said. He did not disclose the exact number or the cost of the contract.

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