Brother’s inspiration helps teen inventor win international competition

Street Stories

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Beating 20,000 young entrepreneurs took a ton of passion from a local student and a big dash of Tasium.

The inspiration behind Met School senior Jose Rodriguez’s company and product is his little brother Joel, who has Asperger syndrome.

“His whole life, he fidgets,” Jose said. “Plays with his hands or tap his legs.”

Rodriguez decided to combine his desire to build a business with a goal to give his brother a way to idle his perpetual motion.

“I wanted to see if I could do something to help him,” Jose said.

The younger Rodriguez, a sophomore at the Providence school, is a little more theatrical than his 17-year-old brother and hopes to become a voice actor.

“Family Guy and Peter Griffin?” Joel said in the cartoon character’s voice. “A loaf of bread. A stick of butter.”

Sometimes simple ideas can solve complicated problems.

Rodriguez equipped a T-shirt with a metal grommet, allowing the wearer to focus their fidgeting on gadgets clipped to the apparel.

“I got his input on it,” Jose recalled. “He said it was awesome and we got the first one, threw it on him and it went well. He loved it.”

Learn More: Tasium Worldwide »

With his younger brother’s help, Rodriguez produced different combinations of colors and styles, all with a variety of attachments.

“They’re not just for someone with autism,” Joel said. “Other people who like to move around can use them.”

The Tasium logo is a scrambled version of autism.

Over the summer, Rodriguez entered the idea into the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge against a daunting 20,000 others from around the world.

“So, I just put myself out there,” Rodriguez said. “At first it was like, ‘what can you lose?'”

He didn’t lose.

In October, after a string of victories that pared down the competition, it was just Tasium against two others.

By now, you know what happened next.

“My hand was literally shaking,” Jose recalled.

“And then, we all just started screaming, very loudly,” his brother said. “We didn’t even hear Jose talk [during his acceptance speech].”

There were tears all around.

“My mom cried. My dad cried. Everybody cried, except me and my brother,” Jose said. “We were just so happy. Our smiles just couldn’t get wiped away.”

It was a big step into his future that includes a new concept which Rodriguez cannot share quite yet.

“It’s proprietary,” he said, smiling.

Rodriguez believes his passion will make Tasium a huge success.

“I think it’s so close to my heart,” Jose said. “Just when I’m talking about it, you can feel it. We’re really excited to make this a reality.”

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with your story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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