This is not your father’s shop class

lpemberton@theolympian.comApril 15, 2013 

Amid the whiz of a power sander, the scratches of a rasp and the high-pitched zing of a 3-dimensional printer, the deep tones of “dun-dun-dun-dun” came from a computer in Craig Brown’s applied technology shop at Nisqually Middle School.

It was eighth-grader Aaron Lindsey, 13, playing a wooden guitar that he built, connected to a computer program that adds distortion and other sound effects.

“I can kind of play the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme,” Lindsey said, smiling.

On Thursday, several of Brown’s students put the finishing touches on their handmade wooden guitars – the pinnacle project for the quarter-long course that wrapped up last week.

The guitars went beyond giving students experience with basic woodworking and metal shop tools.

“He gave us the hardware and we did the wiring,” Lindsey said.

In addition, Brown explained to students the science behind how electric guitars work.

“I incorporated a little applied physics,” he said. “The technology behind the (guitar’s) pickup is very simple, actually.”

Applied technology part of the North Thurston school’s Career and Technical Education program. It is designed to combine all of the elements of a traditional shop class – such as safety skills and woodworking tools – with computers and technology.

Students rotate between woodworking projects and interactive computer-based learning stations with programs such as robotics, flight simulation and computer-assisted design and drafting.

“We use tools and learn skills that could apply to our future,” said eighth-grader Justin Raney, 13.

Brown began teaching at Nisqually Middle School in 1995. Prior to that, he taught shop classes in Yelm and Steilacoom.

“When I first came here, it was industrial arts,” Brown said. “Through the years, it’s become more technical and science orientated.”

He said the inspiration for the project came from a teacher in another district who took a class and built a full-size wooden guitar.

Brown loved the idea and modified the design so that students only had to build the guitar neck to hold two strings – for the E and A notes.

“They can do power chords,” he said, noting that with some practice, they should be able to play several classic rock and roll songs on their guitars.

Each instrument cost about $8 to build, he added.

Eighth-grader Elise Garrett, 14, has big plans for her project, which she designed to hold six strings.

“I’m thinking after this class, I may want to add a body and make some modifications and use it as an actual guitar,” she said.

Eighth-grader Paladin Pitts Palmerton, 14, said he was thrilled with the way his guitar turned out.

“I plan on hanging it on a wall and spray painting it,” he said. “It’s going to be awesome. I made that with my own hands – plus a couple of power tools.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 @Lisa_Pemberton

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