Md. high school students develop a special lacrosse stick for 9-year-old with cerebral palsy

High school students develop special lacrosse stick for 9-year-old with cerebral palsy

Stella Stakolosa rides horses, swims and has fallen in love with lacrosse.

She has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair — mobility wasn’t the issue, but developing a way for her to launch a lacrosse ball from a stick was a challenge.

Enter Brendan McCarthy and 19 of his students enrolled in the “Engineering For Us All” course at College Park Academy in Prince George’s County. They went to work on developing a stick that she could activate, and that would launch the lacrosse ball, enabling Stella to dig into a game she loves playing.

The course, known as e4usa, was cofounded by University of Maryland President Darryll Pines, who joined Stella, her mom and members of the class for a chance to put the specially designed lacrosse stick to the test.

Stella, who has a sweet voice and bright smile, has a ferociously competitive spirit. At the unveiling of the project, she declared that her future opponents “are going down!”

Later, she explained to WTOP her opponents face defeat, “because I’m so good at playing!”

Her mother, Megan, told WTOP, “Stella is the type of kid who wants to do everything, and I have a hard time saying no, so it all just kind of works out,” she said with a laugh.

Stella came to the attention of McCarthy and his students through an organization called Volunteers for Medical Engineering, an organization that matches students with projects including those that provide assistive technology.

McCarthy said his students rose to the challenge, working through initial failures in the early design and testing process. He was asked what it was like to see the finished product put to the test.

“To see the smile on Stella’s face and just how excited she is about it — this is why people get into engineering,” he said.

Junior student Aiden McFarlane told WTOP, “Stella was actually great.”

She made clear that she wanted her personality to shine through, so her favorite color, pink, was incorporated in the project.

McFarlane echoed what McCarthy said about getting into engineering.

The high school junior said he had planned on being a pilot, but said, “Honestly it’s amazing,” that the students had the opportunity to apply engineering to solve a problem to allow Stella to play a game she loves.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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