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Class allows students to manufacture guitars

By Elizabeth Saulbury
On March 5, 2014

Building guitars may not seem like typical coursework for engineering technology students; however, engaging students in designing, prototyping and fabricating custom guitars offers hands-on experience with technology, science, mathematics, and other skills that are helpful for a successful careers in the field.
"The big thing in this department is that it's not so much about lecture as it is about learning," student Elijah Casey said.
ENTC 3600, a manufacturing technology course, is offered as part of the manufacturing, product development and industrial technology concentrations of the engineering technology major. The guitar building class gives students the opportunity to learn each of the steps in manufacturing procedures, from designing a prototype to putting the finishing touches on the product.
"It's about taking a product as a main idea and running it through the whole manufacturing process all the way to retail," Casey said.
According to Bill Hemphill, associate professor and coordinator of the Product Development and industrial technology concentrations in ETSU's Engineering Technology program, the skills learned in this class will be very valuable to students later on in their career searches.
"When you go into an interview and they ask 'What can you do?' and a student can say 'I designed, prototyped and built my own guitar' and can show pictures and explain their methods, employers are very interested in that type of skill set," Hemphill said.
The students enrolled in the course are in various stages of the guitar-building process.
"The hardest part [to build] is probably the neck," said student Andy Gricunas. "A lot of work seems to go into that part. Putting it together when you're done is probably the easiest part. I really enjoy the drawing part of it."
"Everybody builds two guitars: one for yourself or someone you know, and then the second part is getting into groups and building for charity," said Casey.
Hemphill said that last semester's charity project involved auctioning off a guitar for $950. The proceeds went to Buccaneer Athletic Scholarship Association.
The course started in 2011, inspired by Hemphill's attendance at a guitar-building workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Since then, the popularity of the course has continued to grow as engineering technology students discover and explore the many abilities that the course teaches, from design to woodworking.
Hemphill has high hopes for the future of guitar building at ETSU. "I would love to be able to not only continue the class, but expand it to students who just want to build their own guitar," Hemphill said.
Hemphill also said that he would be interested in seeing the department partner with Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country music to offer the course to those students, as well as offer the class as a workshop for teachers.
The course is not only a useful class for engineering technology students, but also an enjoyable experience for them as well.
"It was fun for me to even think about building a guitar," Gricunas said. "I'm really glad they offer the class."

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