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South River High Student Wins $5K and National Award

Freshman Chase Rudisill invented a bass guitar drum that will be featured in the theatrical show, Blue Man Group.

Imagine being a hobby musician, a ninth-grader, who plays piano and guitar. Imagine that while you're at school learning about all things science and engineering, an all-star panel of judges is reviewing the instrument you invented as part of a class assignment—judges like Ludicris, Stevie VanZandt, Pat Metheny, and the president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, among others. You know, heavy hitters in the music business. 

Now imagine that they pick your instrument as the winner, and during first period on a random Thursday in March, a group of people march into your classroom to tell you that those VIP judges picked your entry—of all those entered from coast to coast—and that you've won $5,000, a trip to Florida, and that your instrument will be featured in the world-famous theatrical show, "Blue Man Group."

Chase Rudisill of Harwood, a freshman at South River High School, doesn't have to imagine such a scenario.

It happened to him yesterday.

The Rudisill family was there for the announcement when Chase was informed (surprised) that his instrument, a "bass guitar drum," was selected to be used in the Blue Man Group show. He will be taking his family to Universal Studios in Orlando in May.

And he gets to pocket the $5,000 in cash.

Rudisill's teacher for Project Based Learning (PBL), Debie Lesko, said that in February she got a note from one of the guidance counselors about the contest. At that time, there was only about a week to go before the deadline, but that she decided her students could use some class time and homework to come up with an instrument using common household objects. 

Chase got the assignment on a Friday and spent the weekend making a prototype.

David Rudisill, Chase's dad, said that his son had never really worked with power tools, but noticed that Chase was really having a good time working with the drill and the jig saw. After finishing the prototype one weekend, he used the second weekend to revise the instrument so that it could be tuned.

"He's a piano player, so he made it, and then tuned it to the piano," Chase's dad said.

They shot video of the instrument at home with Chase playing a song by the White Stripes, "Nation's Army," which has a lead-in of a bass guitar with bass drum. It was the perfect song to play on the instrument. You can see Chase's winning video entry here.

David said that Chase turned in the assignment, and didn't really think too much about it.

"It's been in his room. He plays it sometimes," he said.

Then on Wednesday, Chase's mother Valerie got a call from the school saying that Chase had won the contest, and asked her to gather the family and the instrument and to be at the school at 8 a.m. for the presentation on Thursday morning.

The instrument is mounted on a piece of plywood and, just as the assignment dictated, is made out of common household items — a five-gallon bucket, rags, wooden dowels, rubber bands and screws.

It surely doesn't look like it would have a nice tone, but as soon as Chase plucks the rubber bands, the sound is deep and clear. 

The family will travel to Orlando in May. The Blue Man Group, who are famous for their stage shows that mix music, comedy and multi-media, will be writing an original song to be played on Chase's invention—and incorporated into their show.

For South River, the win is another feather in their cap. In October, one of the Project Lead the Way engineering students won a . Just last week, a South River student was selected to serve this year as the —the second South River in a row to serve in the post. 

For Debie Lesko, Chase's win also means $5,000 in cash for the STEM magnet program because the school with the winning student also got to take a cash prize. Lesko said it will be used on technology that can be shared with both STEM and non-STEM students at the Edgewater campus.

Debbie Robertson April 01, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Way to go Chase! That is awesome! Congratulations!
Joe Van Deuren May 22, 2011 at 10:49 AM
Congratulations, love the creativity. Way to go!!

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