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STEM Education Rocks Out!
GuitarBuilding.org gives teachers a great new tool to inspire kids
Where: Workshops around the U.S..
ShopBot Tool: ShopBot Buddy®
Tom Singer, CMFGT, is Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology and Manager of the CollabNFAB Center at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. A 26-year teacher at Sinclair, Singer's focus has been on creating design/build curricula that teach technical as well as practical technology skills.
Five years ago as part of a five-college group, Sinclair and his colleagues were trying to develop a product lifecycle project. The answer came to them when attending Dr. Mark French's summer guitar making workshop at Purdue University. Sinclair's team knew that the universal language and fun of music making would be a hit in high schools and community colleges, so they applied for NSF funding that would enable them to "teach the teachers."
The result is a rockin' 5-day workshop of STEM learning for teachers, through the practice of building a working, professional hard-body electric guitar. Core pieces of the guitar are made and finished on a ShopBot CNC. "Major guitar manufacturers incorporate CAD and CAM processes in building guitars," notes Sinclair. "So we thought it would be perfect to showcase STEM principles by having our teacher-students build their own guitars from start to finish — body, neck, bridges, frets, head stocks, electronics and all."
"The guitar is a valuable teaching tool since the mechanism that produces sound depends on the interaction of acoustics and structural dynamics. Structurally, the guitar must be strong enough to withstand tension while flexible enough to produce sound when the strings vibrate."
"The end of the course is dubbed Rock Star Friday, when the teachers get to jam on their new guitars. There's a lot of laughter and buzz -- it's a great time. Of course the teacher get to take their guitars back to their school districts — it becomes a great centerpiece for starting to teach their kids."
GuitarBuilding.org makes the entire hands-on STEM curriculum available as a free download. The files for cutting the guitar parts are also available free, so schools with ShopBots or other CNC routers can make guitar kits themselves. Pre-cut kits are also available for sale at GuitarBuilding's online store.
Sinclair's excited about how quickly the program has seen success. "Based on the number of teachers who've attended our workshops, we know that 1000's of students have benefitted from STEM guitar building. Not every student will go on to an industrial design career -- but they all come away with hands-on appreciation of STEM principles. Who knows where or how far that can inspire them to go?"