Engineering for All: Brendan McCarthy’s Class Transforms Inclusive Design into Real-World Solutions

Stella Stakolosa scores with an adaptive lacrosse stick engineered by College Park Academy students under the guidance of teacher Brendan McCarthy (left), as part of the Engineering for Us All program.  Photo by John T. Consoli
Stella Stakolosa scores with an adaptive lacrosse stick engineered by College Park Academy students under the guidance of teacher Brendan McCarthy (left), as part of the Engineering for Us All program.

Photo by John T. Consoli

In a heartwarming and inspiring project, students at College Park Academy, guided by teacher Brendan McCarthy, have developed an innovative solution to help nine-year-old Stella Stakolosa, a Maryland girl with cerebral palsy, play the sport she loves. This effort exemplifies the ethos of the "Engineering for US All" (e4usa) initiative, which focuses on inclusive engineering and problem-solving for real-world challenges.

Stella's Story: Engineering for Inclusion

Stella Stakolosa, a passionate lacrosse player who uses a wheelchair, faced significant challenges in playing the sport due to her limited mobility. However, mobility wasn't the issue, but finding a way to launch a lacrosse ball from a stick was a daunting task. This is where Brendan McCarthy and his 19 students in the e4usa course stepped in.

Collaborating with the organization Volunteers for Medical Engineering, which connects students with projects involving assistive technology, McCarthy's class embarked on creating adaptive equipment specifically for Stella. The students designed a lacrosse stick that attaches to Stella’s wheelchair, allowing her to release the ball by pulling a string. This innovative design enabled Stella to participate actively in lacrosse, a sport she loves dearly.

The Impact of e4usa at College Park Academy

e4usa, co-founded by University of Maryland President Darryll Pines, aims to democratize engineering education, making it accessible to high school students nationwide. The program equips teachers with the necessary training to deliver college-level engineering courses, even if they do not have an engineering background.

Brendan McCarthy’s class at College Park Academy is a shining example of how e4usa fosters inclusive design and practical problem-solving. The project not only provided a tangible solution for Stella but also instilled in the students a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Junior Katie Martinez expressed the class's collective sentiment, saying, "Just seeing Stella with a smile on her face, seeing her being able to play lacrosse, with her passion, is really nice and makes me feel really good."

Another student, Aiden McFarlane, shared how this experience shifted his career aspirations from aviation to engineering, emphasizing the profound impact such projects can have on students' futures. "Honestly, it’s amazing that we had the opportunity to apply engineering to solve a problem and allow Stella to play a game she loves," he said.

Celebrating Achievements and Future Opportunities

At the project's unveiling, Stella, with her characteristic enthusiasm and competitive spirit, declared that her future opponents “are going down!” Her mother, Megan Stakolosa, praised both Stella’s determination and the students' efforts, highlighting how such projects make a significant difference in their lives.

Brendan McCarthy reflected on the journey, noting the challenges and triumphs his students faced during the design and testing phases. “To see the smile on Stella’s face and just how excited she is about it — this is why people get into engineering,” he remarked.

Join the Conversation

This project is a testament to the power of inclusive engineering and the impact of the e4usa initiative. To read more about this inspiring story and other related projects, click here for a compilation of articles.

Follow us on X to stay updated with the latest news and join our community discussions. Check out our reposts and engage with us at @e4usa.

Through the efforts of dedicated teachers like Brendan McCarthy and the innovative spirit of students, e4usa continues to pave the way for a more inclusive and accessible world. We look forward to seeing more transformative projects in the future, inspired by real-world challenges and driven by engineering solutions.



The details and quotes in this article were sourced from the following news stories:

  • RIVERDALE PARK, Md. (7News) — Coverage of the adaptive lacrosse stick project developed by students at College Park Academy.
  • WTOP — Reporting on Stella Stakolosa’s use of the adaptive equipment and the collaboration between Volunteers for Medical Engineering and the students.
  • Various other local news articles highlight the impact of the e4usa program and Brendan McCarthy's contributions. Credit - Compilation of Links
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