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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Teachers learn guitar-building to illustrate application of STEM principles

Nikki Grottano, a Newpoint High School teacher from Escambia County, wants to teach guitar building as part of a physical science class. She came to Tampa and Brandon to learn how.

“This is so cool,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want to build a guitar? It’s a great hook for students.”

The National Science Foundation, through a grant, in August sponsored a weeklong institute called the National STEM Guitar Project for teachers at Hillsborough Community College-Brandon and Erwin Technical School.

Institute faculty members Tom Singer, Mark French and Steve Brown showed 14 middle, high and post-secondary school teachers from the southeastern United States how to grab students’ attention through this tangible application of science, technology, engineering and math principles.

“All students ask, ‘When am I ever going to use this stuff?’” said Freedom High School math teacher Tim Nolan. “We need real- world examples to tie in with lessons.” He hopes to offer guitar- building as an elective.

Marilyn Barger, executive director of the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE) at Hillsborough Community College-Brandon, brought the guitar project to Florida after discovering how empowering it was to create her own instrument last year in Arizona.

“This is the first time this program has been offered in the Southeast,” she said.

Betty Jo Moore and David Delade, science teachers at Wiley Magnet Middle School in Winston-Salem, N.C., hope to co-teach a guitar-building class.

Moore said, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done. It blows my mind that I did this in a week.”

The Guitar Project encourages participation from teachers of all disciplines, who often partner with each other. Technology and engineering teachers share expertise about woodworking, power tools, CAD designs, CNC cutouts and electronics with math teachers who explain measurements and the algebraic and trigonometric functions of sound waves relating to fret spacing.

Science teachers des-cribe the physics of tone-woods and electronics, and chemical properties of finishes and glues, while art and music teachers accentuate aesthetics and tone.

Participating teachers get some funds for the kit-based project as they implement it at their schools.

Kyle Thompson teaches traditional and engineering students in the construction program at Middleton High School. He hopes this project will help traditional, non-college-bound kids learn important skills for starting good careers.

Desh Bagley, of Valrico, FLATE’s outreach manager, also built an electric guitar at the workshop.

Since FLATE’s goal is to help manufacturers find capable, well-prepared graduates entering the manufacturing career pipeline, Bagley is excited that “students can take the skills they’re learning in the Guitar Project to use in a manufacturing facility right up the road.”

Building guitars seems like a good after-school project to motivate general-education students to work hard and stay in school, said Mike Sweet, a Newsome High School chemistry teacher.

For Julie Compton, guitar-playing biology teacher at East Bay High School, the workshop had special meaning.

Compton’s dad used to build guitars. When she read about this workshop shortly after he died, she felt a strong desire to attend. She built an instrument in his honor, placing some of his ashes under the fret markers. She hopes to teach a guitar-building elective or start a club.

For further information about the National STEM Guitar Project, visit www .guitarbuilding.org.

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