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Teachers Build An Electric Guitar With Goal To Pass On The Skills To STEM Students

Learning to build an electric guitar last week, teachers from local schools and other parts of the country worked on developing skills to get their students more interested in science, technology, engineering and math.

In the class at Ventura College, the teachers spent about 40 hours shaping, sanding and soldering to learn to make the guitars.

By teaching educators the skills, program organizers hope to have a big effect on students, said Scot Rabe, Ventura College professor of industrial design and manufacturing.

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"We're trying to expand high school students' interest to get them excited about technical careers," Rabe said. "We're kind of tricking them by using an electric guitar."

The program was funded by the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency. The money paid for the materials needed for high school and continuing education teachers to learn how to make a solid-body electric guitar.

The faculty development grant and the program are designed to give educators the expertise to teach their students by having them the teachers learn the skills themselves.

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"It's a lot of fun, but the big picture is to get kids interested in math and science," said Doug Hunt, workshop instructor and an engineering and technology instructor at South Wells High School in Indiana.

Four workshops were held annually for about three years across the United States. Ventura College hosted two workshops this summer, each a week long.

Three Camarillo High School teachers took part in last week's workshop. They are working to incorporate the guitar-making lesson into a program for their students to get audio engineering accreditation.

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The program, which has yet to be implemented, would link physics and wood shop academic pathways to get students from each side interested in the other. The guitar project would be part of a final course for the students to earn graduation ceremonial cords, honors recognition and a handmade guitar.

"We want them to want to do this, and doing this kind of program will do that," said Chip Mills, Camarillo High industrial technology teacher.

The teachers began the workshop with a kit with the guitar parts. Then they made their own electric guitars. They had to shape the wood body and wire the pickups correctly. They tested their guitars with an amplifier.

They painted and sanded and put the remaining parts together, such as attaching the body to the neck and attaching the frets and strings.

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Those who played the guitar had a jam session on the last day of class to celebrate their completions.

"I think this is one thing high school students would remember for the rest of their lives," said Tom Post, woodworking and drafting instructor at Merced High School. "It touches a lot of people in a positive way."

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