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Students Will Build Guitars and STEM Skills

Doug Parrish, department chair of Industrial and Technical Trades at Edgecombe Community College, is leading a guitar-making project at ECC designed to teach STEM skills.

Edgecombe Community College will offer students a guitar-making workshop this fall to teach diverse subjects from physics to electronics.

The workshop will focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills, but it’s the “coolness” factor that will likely attract students to the pilot project.

“The students will have a tangible learning experience to emphasize what they’re learning in class,” says Doug Parrish, department chair of Industrial and Technical Trades. “They’ll learn about physics, carpentry, painting and refinishing, and electronics, and be able to walk away with a really cool project.”

Parrish spent a week in July at the Guitar Building Institute held at Johnston Community College. Part of the National STEM Guitar Project, the institutes are designed to energize and inspire STEM instructors.

During the week, instructors showed community college and public school officials how to implement the program at their institutions.

“Many students believe that STEM classes are difficult and don’t apply to them,” Parrish says. “It’s a struggle to overcome that preconceived notion. With this project, we mix all those subjects and combine them with the arts.”

Parrish says he’s made guitars in the past, and he’s enthusiastic about the possible applications at Edgecombe Community College.

The project will be linked to the College’s manufacturing curriculum, but students will discuss other topics as well – from the different reactions of the strings to how paints respond to different woods.

Within the month, ECC instructors in physics, facility maintenance, and information technology will invite about a dozen of their students to participate in the pilot program. They’ll meet as a club in the afternoons, and the group will be affiliated with the SkillsUSA program for career and technical education students.

“Hopefully, we can implement a class in the spring,” Parrish adds.

Even if the student doesn’t turn out to be the next Les Paul or Leo Fender, he or she might walk away with a working knowledge of algebra, electronics, carpentry, and even chemistry.

And possibly an axe to channel their inner Eric Clapton or Chuck Berry.