Brian Nelle is only in seventh grade, but his ingenuity has already made a difference in the life of a wounded veteran.
The Brunswick Middle School student wants to be a physician's assistant, but his latest innovation has him thinking about a part-time career as an engineer, he said.
Brian, a Boy Scout, has made a device that makes it easier to reload a 9mm pistol magazine one handed.
"I have airsoft guns," Brian said, referring to replica guns that fire plastic pellets. "Those always interested me."
While Brian's innovation may sound advanced for a 12-year-old, it not only has a practical use, but it also has made a huge impression on the man for whom it was intended.
Adam Kisielewski, a retired Marine sergeant, lost his left arm and right leg in a bomb blast during a sweep for insurgents at a school outside Al-Karmah, Iraq, on Aug. 21, 2005. The blast killed his platoon leader, 2nd Lt. James Cathey.
"It was a pretty violent area and a pretty violent time. We were getting into stuff pretty frequently," Kisielewski said.
Kisielewski finished high school in Wisconsin early to join the Marines in 2002. He now lives in a ranch home in Thurmont with a large U.S. flag flying out front and a shooting range out back. It was there that his friend, David Staten, noticed Kisielewski had trouble reloading magazines for his rifle and pistol, Staten said.
Staten, who is retired from the Navy and works at the U.S. Public Health Service at Fort Detrick, mentioned Kisielewski's troubles to his colleague, Timothy Nelle, Brian's father. Staten thought the elder Nelle, an avid woodworker, could make a device to help. Brian, needing a science project, took note of the men's work and sought to improve it.
After some online research and a trip to the hardware store, a prototype was made, but it proved too tough to handle one-handed, Brian said.
On a second attempt, Brian -- with his dad doing the "dangerous" work -- came up with a design that includes a spring-loaded mount on a metal rod to hold the magazine upright. Brian added a commercially available loader that he modified to lock in place so bullets can be loaded into the standing magazine.
"My friend Jack, he wants to be a Marine, too, and I just like to know, if something happens to people, I can help them," Brian said.
The device is screwed onto a board that Kisielewski can bolt to his all-terrain vehicle to prevent it from slipping as he reloads.
Brian presented the final product to Kisielewski at Operation Second Chance, an organization in Clarksburg that helps wounded veterans. Kisielewski is its vice president.
Kisielewski called Brian's work ingenious and awesome.
"(It is) something I never would have ever dreamed up, and I'm 28 years old," he said. "I think he's definitely got a career in engineering in front of him or whatever else he wants to do."
Knowing that people like Brian are interested in helping make his life easier propels Kisielewski forward, he said.
"I've always had a lot of drive in life, but with so many people in your corner, it's hard to fail," he said.
Brian's project won first place in the middle school engineering division of the Frederick County Public School's Science and Engineering Fair and was the first runner-up in the overall middle school division, according to an FCPS news release.
Brian plans to submit the device at the state level this summer, he said.
"We're thinking about patenting it," he said.