Guitar-making class in Alexandria teaches STEM

Students at Mount Vernon High School make guitars in class as part of The STEM Guitar Project. Wednesday, April 5, 2017 (ABC7 photo)

At first glance, it looks and sounds like a high school shop class. But what these design technology students are making may surprise you.

"I never thought we'd create guitars in a class and this is one of the greatest things that we've done," Mount Vernon High School Senior Jose Lopez expressed. Freshman Christina Million added, "You have to make sure you do everything perfectly; make sure you sand."

The Stem Guitar Project just arrived at the Alexandria school this year. It's a program supported by the non-profit organization Music for Life and a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Music for Life President Skip Chaples explained to ABC7 News, "The kids go into the classroom and learn the STEM principles behind the design and operation of electric guitar. Then they go into the workshop and use that information to build their own instrument."

The goal is to not only teach students how to make a guitar, but all of the math and science that goes along with it. "Sound waves. Gave them a whole lesson, 90 minutes, about sound and how they make waves and how you would get the sound out of the guitar," Design Technology Teacher Karen Conlin shared.

"I also am learning a lot more about how it has to do with math," 15-year-old Million said.

When the course is over, students take home the guitar they constructed. "After that we can give them free guitar lessons. So, they would get music lessons on top of all of that," Conlin stated.

Music for Life hopes to soon expand the program to other schools in Northern Virginia.

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