Garrett Middle School Students Rock STEM Guitar Program

One of the best things about living in Boulder City is learning something new about the community today. We are bringing you news of a cool program at Elton and Madeleine Garrett Middle School that gives local students a chance to learn very important STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) concepts that will serve them well going forward. Not only is this class very instructive, it’s also a lot of fun, as students learn to build their very own electric guitar! Yes, you read that right. They build their own electric guitars!

The class recently held a presentation for the Boulder City Rotary Club to demonstrate their progress on their guitar projects. Boulder City Rotary helps to fund the program. There are about 12 students in this class, which is taught by Mr. Ben Franke. Mrs. Robin Coppola, the middle school librarian, who also happens to be the current president of the Rotary Club, opened the meeting and presentation to talk about the origins of the program and her personal interest in ensuring students’ future successes by bringing them the types of knowledge that is both interesting and useful for young minds, namely STEM education. She turned the meeting over to Mr. Franke.

Ben Franke started his presentation by delving into the history of the program. It was originally a college level course, originated by the late Mike Aikens, an engineering professor at Butler County Community College in Pennsylvania. Mr. Aikens discovered through his teaching, that “math and music are truly universal languages that span gender, age, socio-economics and race.” He developed a curriculum that could be adapted to senior and junior high schools. A former Boulder City High School teacher, Mr. Joshua Fisher, was the first instructor to teach the STEM Guitar class here locally. Along the way, the program has received community support from the members of the Boulder City Rotary Club to purchase materials. He spoke of the assistance of Mr. Larry Archuleta, a Rotary Club member and local businessman who owns Dam Computer Medic.

Larry Archuleta talked to the group about his participation in the program and the importance of this type of instructions for current students. Mr. Archuleta, in the STEM field himself, noted that many of the skills the students learn are very applicable to the current direction of technology. These are lifelong skills that will serve the students well as they progress to adulthood and head out into the careers of tomorrow.

Student Wyatt spoke enthusiastically about his experiences with the program. He was asked about the paint design of his guitar – it was a green and white guitar that used a paint masking technique. Think of the late Eddie Van Halen’s red, white and black guitar from the classic 1984 tour. Wyatt also talked about the things he’d learned from both Mr. Franke and Mr. Archuleta during the class.

All of the students present, had guitars in varying stages of completion. Student Ivy was the only one with a complete guitar as of last week’s meeting, although all of the other students were at least 85% complete with theirs. There were several beautiful and some very intricate finishes on the guitars, including fantastic looking dip dyed models with colorful motifs. Ivy is a musician and already owns an electric guitar, so building her own proved to be a fun and artistic challenge. Her mother spoke highly of the program and the skills it taught her daughter and expressed great support for the school and its staff for providing this instruction opportunity.

Many of the students present didn’t currently play guitar, but the school administration indicated that due to high interest in this subject, a beginning guitar elective would be offered in the next school year.

The community can support this wonderful program by donating funding so that the STEM guitar kits can be provided to each student in class. This is important so each has “ownership” of their own project and, once complete, can keep the guitar as a tangible keepsake of their knowledge and hard work. The students were planning to be on hand at the Rotary Club’s Best Dam Barbecue event this coming weekend to show off their progress and talk to others about the program.

To reach Robin Coppola, Rotary Club president and current EM Garrett Middle School librarian, you can email HERE. To reach Mr. Ben Franke, STEM Class Teacher, you can email HERE. To learn more about the STEM Guitar national project, you can visit the website HERE. To find out more about the Rotary Club of Boulder City, you can visit their website HERE. We wish all these students much continued success and also fun with these awesome projects they’ve worked so hard on this year.


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