MIT Alumnus Sets Guinness World Records for Juggling, Advocates for STEM

by Jay London on February 11, 2016 · 0 comments

in Alumni Life, Campus Culture, In the News, Modern Geekhood

MIT_Juggle_Mania

David Rush ’07 at the MIT Juggle Mania event in 2006.

David Rush ’07 is an ambitious juggler. He doesn’t just want to break one Guinness World Record for juggling this month. He wants to break two. On February 6, the Boise-based Rush set a world record with 370 consecutive catches in one minute, while juggling five balls. (The previous record was 330.) And he’ll attempt to set another record—“most juggling head rolls in one minute”—later this month.

“These records are a lot easier to break when you’re alone in your living room,” Rush jokes. “And a lot harder to do when you’re in front of hundreds of people.”

Rush, who has been called the “world’s fastest five-ball juggler,” broke the speed juggling record at the Boise State Engineering and Science Festival in front of more than 500 people. After his Guinness attempt, Rush spoke to the crowd, primarily students and parents, about the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, which he documents on his website DavidRush4STEM.com.

“Juggling or STEM are not that interesting by themselves as lecture topics,” he says. “But when you add them together with a story the audience can relate to, it helps create a message that’s memorable.”

Rush’s dueling passions of juggling and STEM became perfectly aligned at MIT. A Course 6-1 major, his interactive virtual juggling simulator, built with Chris Wilkens ’07, MEng ’08, won the George C. Sherman prize for best undergraduate project in Electrical Engineering and Computer during his junior year.

“During my freshman year IAP, I took a juggling class taught by Jacob Abernathy (’02),” Rush says. “After that, juggling ended up being a much bigger part of my time at MIT than I expected.”

Rush juggles his record-setting 370 ball with one second left in the February 6 performance.

Rush juggles his record-setting 370 ball with one second left in the February 6 performance.

He joined the MIT Juggling Club, which is the oldest continuously operating drop-in juggling club in world, and founded by Boston College Professor Arthur Lewbel ’78, PhD ’74, who encouraged Rush to start the spinoff MIT Student Juggling Club. He also juggled at the 2004 inauguration of MIT President Susan Hockfield.

“I have a lucky MIT shirt that I wore when I set my Guinness records,” he says. “I’ll be wearing later this month, too. Why fix what isn’t broke?”

In addition to his juggling exploits—he has ran five half-marathons and one full marathon, all while juggling—Rush is a product manager at Cradlepoint, a wireless router and software provider that was recognized as the fastest-growing private company in Idaho in 2015. He cites his MIT degree, and the STEM knowledge that came with it, as integral to his professional success, and hopes more young learners will pursue careers in STEM.

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Rush (left) juggles around President Susan Hockfield at her MIT Inauguration block party.

“There is a huge shortage of computer science programmers out there right now,” he says. “And the production of STEM based jobs is far outpacing the number of STEM-degree graduates. We need to encourage students to get a better understanding of how coding works.”

Rush will aim to set the world juggling head rolls record on February 27.  It could be his third Guiness record in five months. He also set the record for longest duration juggling three objects blindfolded (6 minutes, 34 seconds) on October 2, 2015.

But he says the Guinness-validated exploits were easy compared to his four years at MIT.

“Juggling is tough, but graduating from MIT was an even bigger challenge,” Rush says. “Sometimes it felt like I was trying to juggle nine balls at once.”

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