Stella Stakolosa is an active 10-year-old. Stella, who has cerebral palsy, swims, participates in cheerleading and hopes to play lacrosse after inspiration from her best friend.

“My best friend … does lacrosse,” Stella said. “I didn’t want to be left out, so I wanted to try lacrosse.”

This past school year, College Park Academy students designed an adaptive lacrosse stick for Stella, allowing her to play the sport in her wheelchair.

The adaptive stick releases the ball if Stella pulls a string attached to a latch. The latch is connected to a spring on a fiberglass rod, which is bracketed to the side of her wheelchair.

Megan Stakolosa, Stella’s mother, said the students kept Stella involved in the design process and catered to her needs.

“They asked her questions, her likes, her dislikes, what she had in mind, what she wanted designed and they took it from there,” Megan Stakoloxa said. “They were really good at listening to her and her wants.”

The College Park Academy, located in Riverdale Park, is a college preparatory school for middle and high school students. The lacrosse stick was developed as part of the academy’s “e4USA” program.

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University of Maryland president Darryll Pines co-founded the “e4USA” program and is the chair of its board of directors.

The program aims to provide engineering education for high school students and train teachers on engineering instruction, Pines told The Diamondback.

“My principle is that I believe every high school student can learn engineering,” Pines told The Diamondback.

Brendan McCarthy, the program’s teacher at the College Park Academy, said the program gives students the opportunity for hands-on learning.

Currently, most students at the school spend most of their days working on computers, rather than on practical experience, he added.

“[This] is a very different opportunity for students here,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said the program streamlines engineering tasks and divides students into subgroups. Students learn teamwork, design, documentation and engineering skills in the program, he said.

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After presenting the lacrosse stick to Stella on May 28, McCarthy said the project not only had an impact on Stella but also on the College Park Academy students.

“I have learned the impacts of what seems to be a simple project of putting a lacrosse stick onto a wheelchair … on a young girl that gets to use it and the students that participated in that project,” McCarthy said.

Bethania Solomon, a recent College Park Academy graduate who worked on the project, said she joined the program to make an impact on the community and gain critical skills, despite not wanting to enter the engineering field.

Solomon added that problem-solving was one of the most important skills she learned in the program.

“That was the most important thing that we learned in this class — not everything is going to work, so trying to find a solution and get around roadblocks,” Solomon said.

Moving forward, Stella will play for No Limits — a lacrosse team for “individuals with different abilities,” according to Megan Stakolosa.

“I feel excited because nothing can stop me,” Stella said.