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Welcome to The National STEM Guitar Project

National-Science-FoundationThe National STEM Guitar Project, in partnership with NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Centers with funding provided through a grant from The National Science Foundation (#1304405), hosts innovative Guitar Building Institutes around the United States.  The 5-day institutes, combined with additional instructional activities comprising 80 hours, provide faculty training on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for middle, high school, and post-secondary faculty. The institutes present and teach participants hands-on, applied learning techniques to help engage students and spark excitement for learning STEM subject matter.

Nationwide, there are increasing concerns from businesses about the supply of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics trained workers.  Science and math test scores in the U.S. are among the lowest around the world.

The goal and objective of the STEM Guitar Building Institutes is to showcase a new way to present learning for students with applied methods.

Hover to See 12 Core STEM Activities Students Complete Through Building a Guitar

Intonation
 
In this activity intonation will be defined and indentified as it relates to setting up an electric guitar. Read the attached text on intonation. Preview the Intonation and Set-Up Power Point. Set up your electric guitar fist then intonate and answer the following questions. Basic science and math principles will be explored and applied.
 
 
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Guitar Anatomy and Cost Estimate
 
In order to successfully estimate the cost of building an electric guitar, students must calculate the cost and quantity of the following components: body, neck, fret board, jack, potentiometers, capacitors, pick-ups, strap buttons, bridge, volume/tone knobs, ferrules, neck plate, screws, tuning machines, fret wire, fret board, nut, truss rod, fret dots, bridge, and strings. In doing so, students will learn basic business math computation, as well as the anatomy of an electric guitar.
 
 
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Guitar Geometry
 
The golden ratio can be used as a basic guide for guitar design. The Golden Ratio, also known as the divine proportion, is a design resource used for millennia, since ancient Greece times. It describes a relation between two segments, one of which is 1.618 times larger than the other. This relationship is found in an astonishing number of instances in culture and the universe, clearly more frequently than pure chance would suggest. So, a guitar designed using this principle would be perceived as consistent with proportions found in art and nature. The figures below illustrate how the Les PaulTM and the StratocasterTM fit into the golden rectangle. Notice the position of the bridge in the Les PaulTM and the precise golden relation between the width at the upper bout and the length of the StratocasterTM body.
 
 
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Guitar Necks: The Compression and Tension of a Neck
 
Changing the tension on a truss rod means that you are changing the curvature of the neck? How much force is needed to change the neck? Using Finite element analysis to calculate the force needed to bend a guitar neck. Included is a complete set of inventor assembly / part drawings to assembly a basic neck (do not use it to carve or router a neck).
 
 
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Set Up
 
This is an activity on setting up the electric guitar prior to intonation. This activity uses the Guitar Set Up PowerPoint. Setting up the electric guitar involves adjusting some of the hardware of the guitar and making fine adjustments to the entire instrument. After strings are installed, you will need to adjust the neck, string height and saddle position to complete the set up.
 
 
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Threaded Fasteners
 
Fasteners are used throughout the guitar and in industry. There are a variety of fasteners on a guitar; being able to identify, size and drill the proper pilot holes is important ant as to not break the screw.
 
 
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Fret Spacing Calculation
 
Throughout history, specific spacing for each fret of a stringed instrument necessitates a precise measurement based on the exact scale length of the individual instrument. Pythagoras was the first known person to experiment with musical scalar intervals near 500 BC. Later, in the 16th century, Galileo’s father, Vincenzo Galilei, was credited with developing the "rule of 18," used for centuries by instrument makers to determine the fret scale length of their instruments. For any given vibrating string length they would simply divide the length of the string by 18, yielding the distance from the nut to the first fret. By subtracting that figure from the original string length they arrived at a new shorter scale measurement, which was then divided once again by 18 and resulted in the distance between the first and second frets. They continued in this manner until the entire scale was determined. Over the years the constant divisor 18 has been refined to 17.817 (derived from a formula based on 21/12, or the 12th root of 2) resulting in more accurate scales.
 
 
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Scale Length, Frequency, & String Tension
 
String tension is determined by vibrating length, mass, and pitch. The string diameter alone does not determine a string’s tension. By using different raw materials (nickel-plated steel or phosphor bronze, etc.) or by varying the ratio between the core and the wrap wire, two strings with the same diameter, tuned to the same pitch, could have two different tensions.
 
There are many factors other than string gauge that determine the actual and perceived string tension on your instrument, such as scale length, which is the distance between the nut and the saddle. The longer the scale, the higher the tension for the same string tuned to the same pitch – for example, a standard Fender™ guitar at 25½” scale has more string tension and will feel stiffer than a standard Gibson™ 24¾” scale guitar, even if both are tuned to the same standard pitch. Some players adjust for this by using slightly heavier gauges on shorter scale guitar than on longer scale guitars.

 
 
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Material Properties of Wood for Guitars
 
In this activity, participants will measure the stiffness per unit weight of wood samples. The object is to calculate the material stiffness of several species of wood and to compare the stiffness to weigh ratios. The stiffness of structure (like a small wood beam) is determined by its geometry and the material stiffness. The woods most favored for acoustic guitars are often the ones with the highest stiffness to weight ratio. Electric guitars can be made with a wider range of woods. It is typical to use hard maple or mahogany for the neck and something less dense for the body. Alder and Basswood are typical choices for body wood, though soft maple is sometimes used.
 
 
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Electronics
 
In this activity students will learn to build an electrical circuit consisting of the components and wiring that make up the electric guitar. Proper grounding methods will be understood and used during the assembly process.
 
 
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Tolerances in Engineering Drawings
 
Tolerances can be found along with dimensions on engineering drawings of guitar designs. Tolerances show the guitar builder the acceptable size range for each dimension. In this lesson, you will learn to identify tolerances on a drawing, calculate the acceptable dimension of a feature, and specify tolerances for dimensions using industry standards.
 
 
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Computer Aided Design (CAD) & Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM)
 
Modern design and manufacturing begins with the identification of a problem that needs solving. From there, ideas and sketches lead to preliminary solutions for new products and processes. Bringing these ideas to life requires the use of many tools and an understanding of their application and capabilities. Computer Aided Design (CAD) software is the modern version of a pencil and paper drawing. Although the use of pencil and paper has not gone completely the way of the dinosaur, computer applications have taken over for the design of most modern products. We use hand tools to work on specific features of our products; but again the computer has made production more efficient. Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software and automated machine tools have made manufacturing faster and our products less costly. CAD and CAM have a very central place in modern guitar manufacturing.
 
 
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Click to view the complete list of activity downloads


 

STEM educators take part in an intense five day electric guitar design/build project.  Each faculty member will build his/her own custom electric guitar and will engage in student centered learning activities that relate the guitar design to specific math, science and engineering topics.  Participants leave this weeklong experience with their custom-made guitars, curriculum modules with short term assessments that can be immediately integrated into the faculty team school curriculum.

Through the NSF grant, educators who applied and are selected receive free tuition and stipend to participate in the 5-day Guitar Building Institutes.   Over the initial 4 year NSF grant period, the STEM Guitar Project has over delivered its objectives by recruiting 235 STEM faculty members to participate in Guitar Building Workshops around the country with an additional 335 faculty impacted via national education conferences.  Thus far, this effort is impacting over 4600 students nationally as a result of faculty members adopting or adapting the curriculum developed through the project.  At this rate, the project goal of reaching over 19,000 students by 2016 is highly realistic.  Click here to get learn how to get involved in an upcoming institute.

Hover to See Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building Programs

Wisconsin Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Fox Valley Technical College
Washington Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Arlington High School
Auburn High School
Auburn Riverside High School
Bothell High School
Richland High
Central Washington University
Edmonds Community College
Edmonds Heights High School
Hanford High School
Henry Foss High School
Issaquah School District
Jenkins High School
Kennewick High School
Kent-Meridian High School
Kiona-Benton City School District
Lake Stevens Middle School
Lake Washington School District
Liberty Bell Jr/Sr High School Monroe High school
Naches Valley High School
Orcas Island High School
Pasco High School
Richland High School
Sedro-Woolley high School
Sunnyside High School
Wahluke High School
Washougal High School
Washington State University
Virginia Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Danville Community College
Utah Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Salt Lake Community College
Tennessee Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
East Tennessee State University
Pennsylvania Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Blue Mountain High School
Butler County Community College

Butler Sr. High School
Fairview High School
Forest Area School District
Ft. Couch Middle School
Hermitage School District
Hickory High School
Lawrence County Career and Tech Center
Manheim Township High School
Northampton Community College
Northern Lebanon High School
Northern Lehigh School District
Parland High School
Pine-Richland High School
State College High School South
Upper St. Clair School District
York Suburban School District
Oklahoma Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Ohio Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Canton City Schools
Dover High School
Greene County Career Center
Kent State University
Kilbourne Middle School
Mariemont High School
New Philadelphia High School
Sinclair Community College
Stebbins High School
Theodore Roosevelt High School
Trumbull Career and Technical Center
Nevada Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Carson City School
Carson High School
Legacy High School
Southwest Career and Technical Academy
New Mexico Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Central Consolidated School
North Carolina Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Pitt Community College
Minnesota Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
South Central College
Michigan Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Mott Community College
Portage Northern High School
Maine Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Boothbay Region High School
Noble High School
Maryland Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Hagerstown Community College
Indiana Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Cumberland Elementary School
DeKalb Middle School
DeKalb Middle School
Indiana University
Jefferson High School
Lafayette Jefferson High School
McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology
New Castle Area Career Programs
North Montgomery High School
Purdue University
Shelbyville Central Schools
Southern Wells Junior/ Senior High School
Illinois Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Lewis and Clark Comm College
Hawaii Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Kapi'olani Community College
Connecticut Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Gateway Community College
California Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
California High School
Camarillo High School
Carlsbad High School
Carmel High School
Contra Costa County Office of Education ROP
College of the Redwoods
Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District
Merced High School
Monte Vista High School
Montgomery High School
Oxnard High School
Rancho Cotate High School
Saddleback College
San Pasqual High School
South Fork High School
Southwestern College
Stevenson School
The Grauer School
Ventura College
Vista del Lago High School
Walker Jr. High
West Hills High School
California Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
California High School
Camarillo High School
Carlsbad High School
Carmel High School
Contra Costa County Office of Education ROP
College of the Redwoods
Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District
Merced High School
Monte Vista High School
Montgomery High School
Oxnard High School
Rancho Cotate High School
Saddleback College
San Pasqual High School
South Fork High School
Southwestern College
Stevenson School
The Grauer School
Ventura College
Vista del Lago High School
Walker Jr. High
West Hills High School
Arizona Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Chandler-Gilbert Community College
Chaparral High School
Desert Mountain HS
Phoenix Union High School
Arkansas Schools that are Implementing STEM Guitar Building:
 
Ganado Unified School District
University of Arkansas-Fort Smith
Western Arkansas Technical Center