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STEM team from Brandywine High School receives national honor for second year in a row

Brandywine High School STEM Team: (L to R) Malti John, Olivia Erskine, Isabella Chermak, and Kate McDerby after arriving in Wilmington from Washington DC on May 1, 2024. Standing behind them is teacher Sean Merklin.
Joe Irizarry
Brandywine High School STEM Team: (L to R) Malti John, Olivia Erskine, Isabella Chermak, and Kate McDerby. Standing behind them is teacher Sean Merklin.

Brandywine High School’s STEM Team was named a National winner in the 14th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition in Washington DC.

"I just feel really proud of our team, and I know that our school feels proud of us. I just love being able to represent Delaware nationally," said Olivia Erskine who is part of the Brandywine High team that is a national winner for the second year in a row.

The team redesigned board games with inspiration from games like Chutes and Ladders and Connect Four to accommodate special education students after speaking with district special ed teachers about the issues those students have making meaningful connections with their classmates.

They designed their games to be controlled by adaptive and interchangeable buttons and color schemes to make it easier for visually impaired or the colorblind to see.

Isabella Chermak is also a member of the award winning team.

"So many people who have disabilities, they don't have access to these games that we grew up with and we had strong connections with and we created friendships and bonds with people and people with disabilities that didn't have the same opportunity so we wanted to broaden you know the available things that went on the market," said Chermak.

The games have already generated demand from schools and assisted living facilities around the county.

Malti John started this project in an engineering class.

"Social interactions are super important and that's one of the things of assistive special education that you don't think about is the importance of social interactions,” said John. “We mostly think about like opening doors or having tools that will allow people to interact with like everyday things but we don't think about play and that's also equally if not more important than all the other things."

Brandywine High senior Kate McDerby is especially proud that an all-female team picked up the national honor.

"I'm so excited that we can show girls in stem that they can do whatever they put their minds to and to be able to help communities and get this outreach for a product it's very exciting," said McDerby.

The team of seniors graduates from Brandywine High School later this spring.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.