Headlines: Down East Students Gain STEM Skills by Building Guitars

Mike Lawson • • February 29, 2016

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STEM Guitar LessonStudents in Cobscook Community Learning Center’s high school program are learning science, technology, engineering, math — and the arts — by making guitars.

The 10 students, who are enrolled in an alternative high school program accredited through Calais High School, gathered Feb. 11 for their first day of hands-on work.

Guitar bodies had arrived and Michael Giudilli, one of three teachers in the program, instructed the youths on their first steps. These included using a round rasp to remove chunks of material from the wooden bodies in order to customize their shapes. Students could then use sandpaper to smooth the edges of their guitar bodies.

The project is literally called the STEM guitar project, said Giudilli. To prepare for it, Giudilli and co-teacher Kara McCrimmon participated in a guitar-building workshop in June. The workshop, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, provided teachers with the skills and experience necessary to build electric guitars with their students while teaching a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts. For example, students will have to calculate the spacing required between frets and build and wire the electric circuits that power and play their guitars.

“We chose [this project] because of the strong STEM emphasis, because of the interdisciplinary nature,” said McCrimmon. “Frankly we also chose it because [Giudilli] and I are both musicians. We both play guitar.”

Students began the project this past fall by planning fundraisers with a goal of raising $5,000 to pay for guitar components and the tools needed to build them, said Giudilli.

“The whole process is educational,” said McCrimmon. “The process of writing fundraising letters, planning and holding events and talking to people about the project is entirely new to the students. They’re learning really important career-related skills through this.”


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