Rensselaer Academy students spent some time last week with a unique visitor – a duck named Stumpy.

As if a duck visiting a school wasn’t unique enough, Stumpy is extra-unique because he has something most ducks don’t – a prosthetic leg.

Renee McEvilly of the McEvilly Homestead at Erin’s Acres brought Stumpy to meet the students at RA and share his story of fighting through adversity and using creativity and problem solving to make improvements to a situation.

Stumpy lost one of his legs in a weasel attack in November 2018. To help Stumpy live as much of a normal life as possible, Renee and her husband Ron took on the task of designing and creating a prosthetic leg.

Through several prototypes and a 3D printer, the McEvilly’s and their designer, Morgan Hamilton, developed a prosthetic leg for Stumpy that closely mirrors the real thing, right down to the webbing.

“It was a lot of trial and error, we started with the basic triangle, then we moved on to the webbing and then the top to attach to his actual stump,” McEvilly said.

Heather Silvernail, a Questar III teacher at Rensselaer City School District, knew Renee and the task she and Ron were undertaking, but beyond that, she recognized how relevant Stumpy’s story could be for her students, so Silvernail invited her friend, and Stumpy, to school.

“Our kids need to hear these stories because many of them are experiencing them themselves. They’re overcoming obstacles, they’re overcoming challenges, they’re overcoming disabilities. They’re learning how to work with those disabilities and learn that it’s not always something you have to accept, it’s a problem you can get around by using some creativity, using some things that might not come to the natural thinking at first but when you sit down and you problem solve, you can find a way to make this work.”

Students didn’t just hear Stumpy’s story – they also took on the role of designer themselves and designed and built feet or shoes out of cardboard, twine and tape with the goal of allowing a test subject to walk as normally as possible while maintaining the integrity of the design.

McEvilly says often children’s ideas are tossed aside by adults before they’re even considered but says even ideas that can seem crazy aren’t always as implausible as one might thing.

“Dream it, work it, do it. it sounds very cliché, I believe it happens a lot with children, they get excited with these crazy ideas, which are crazy to adults because we’ve lived our lives, but we have to step back a little bit and take that young energy and actually sit and get our own ideas out of our head and think with them and say ‘hey yeah, this is actually possible, but we have to find a way.”

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