The STEM Elective and Exploring Art classes at SAMS worked in collaboration to design, model, and test an instrument known as a Cigar Box Guitar (CBG). Across the United States, CBGs are gaining in popularity due to their simple design that allows musicians to use their creativity to build their own one-of-a-kind instrument with excellent results. This project fit perfectly within the STEAM classroom providing a great opportunity for
these 7th and 8th grade students to apply their understanding of science, technology, engineering, art and math as they built their guitars.
Students had to understand the engineering behind how a guitar is constructed such as the name of the parts, where they are located, and their function. Many of the cigar boxes were different sizes so students had to solve several problems including how long to cut the neck and where to place the bridge. Math was used in measuring, cutting, and drilling many of the wood pieces with accuracy and precision. Students learned how the distance between the nut and bridge, along with the fret spacing, is crucial in creating the proper sound. Science was incorporated through the understanding of how the length and diameter of the strings affect the pitch of the sound. A few guitars even had electric pick-ups allowing them to be plugged into an amplifier. Art was incorporated by creating original, colorful designs on all sides of many of the boxes. The students utilized a Zentangle Pattern style of art to inspire their designs.
The project was brought to a close by inviting musician Rick Dewitt from Ron Zehel’s Guitar Center into the classroom to explain basic techniques for playing this four-stringed instrument. Mr. Dewitt discussed music theory including how to play basic chords and use a slide. Playing their instruments provided an exciting and rewarding end to all the hard work occurring throughout the project.
A big thank you goes out to the Firelands Endowment for helping fund this project along with support and assistance from Mr. Dewitt and Firelands Alum Jonathon Harris, co-owner of Orphanage Guitar, LLC.
The STEM Elective class is taught by Mr. Chuck Latto and the Exploring Art class is taught by Mrs. Tamara Chippi.