Brookville's Garrett Hensley can't play his axe, but he knows how it is made because he's the one who built it.
The 19-year-old earned a perfect score last semester in Sinclair Community College’s guitar class.
“It was the most satisfying 100 percent grade I ever got in my life,” Hensley said. “Being able to build something physically that you can hold and touch is a whole new experience.”
The Saturday class is part of the downtown Dayton campus’ STEM Guitar Project, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018.
The self-sustained project is supported partly by the National Science Foundation, Thomas M. Singer, the project's manager and a professor of mechanical engineering technology, said.
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“Not only are we teaching the students how to make the instrument, but actually how to cut out the guitar’s body and neck,” Singer said.
The project plans to launch an acoustic guitar program in fall of 2020.
About a dozen students take the guitar class a semester, but Singer said the project’s impact goes beyond that.
His production staff and student workers have produced more than 10,000 guitar kits in the past 10 years that are used in 48 states.
About 95 percent of the kits created by the labs were used in classrooms to create guitars.
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“The premise of the whole idea is to give hands-on learning so students don’t only get skills with tools and equipment, but they also get the skills and the satisfaction of making an actual object that they can play once they finish.”
More than 700 middle school, high school, college and university teachers and faculty members have been trained by the program.
“We’ve impacted well over 25,000 students in regards to being exposed to our project,” Singer said. Last year, we shipped over 2,000 guitars to students and faculty around the nation.”
The nonprofit project, which operates on a half million dollar annual budget, uses a computer numerical control machine to cut out custom designed guitar bodies.
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Singer says the Sinclair guitar course is open to any student.
Like Hensley, about 20 percent of students don’t play guitar. Twenty to 30 percent of those who take the course are female, he said.
“Our students are a wide variety. We’ll get nursing students. We’ll get arts students. We will have students who are a part of mechanical engineering or manufacturing programs here at Sinclair,” he said. “We have retirees who come into build a guitar with us because it is a personal quest that they want to actually make an instrument for themselves.”
Hensley said the class was educational and fun.
The theater technology student learned patience while sanding, and electricity and soldering skills he hopes to use in his career.
It also provided a break from his theater class and general courses like English, he said.
“It wasn’t very stressful either,” Hensley said. “It was really nice to be able to go in and work and not have all these assignments and home work to do.”
Hensley said his uncle and father know how to play guitar.
When he had more time, he wants to learn himself.