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STEM to get rock star sheen at guitar-building workshop

08/11/2011

The National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEd) at Edmonds Community College hosts a guitar-building workshop for high school teachers August 8-12 in Monroe Hall, the college’s materials science lab.

“Our goal is to provide innovative methods for teaching STEM in different and creative ways,” said MatEd principal investigator Mel Cossette. “Sure, a workshop like this fulfills OSPI clock hour requirements, but we really want to provide teachers an opportunity to gain new competencies for teaching STEM. By the end of this week, when our teachers have their guitars in their hands, they’ll be equipped to pass on energy, interest and new concepts to their students further motivating their students to learn more about the STEM behind the music, technology, and design.”

Nationwide, there are increasing concerns from businesses about the supply of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics trained workers. United States Commerce Secretary Gary Locke recently pointed to a new report that reaffirms, “STEM workers are helping America win the future by generating new ideas, new companies and new industries.” The report also showed sustained growth in STEM jobs and greater job stability for STEM workers.

“This new workshop is one way we are helping rebuild the nation’s STEM workforce — beginning with teachers,” Cossette said. “We need more science teaching stars.”

In five days, teachers at the workshop will build electric guitars and learn how different materials can be used to create various sounds and looks. They will also learn ways to integrate these concepts into their classrooms. The last day of the workshop will be a “Rock Star Friday.” A local musician will join the teachers to help fine tune and test the new guitars.

About 16 teachers will participate from schools including Arlington High School and Mariner High School as well as schools in Seattle and Eastern Washington. For this initial pilot workshop there is no cost for the teachers. It is funded by the MatEd.

The workshop is being held in partnership with Sinclair Community College in Ohio and Butler County Community College in Pennsylvania. These two colleges initiated the original workshop and approached MatEd to offer this opportunity in the Northwest.

Teachers who take the workshop will be tapped to help teach future workshops as a strategy to expand and offer the STEM training to more teachers and students. MatEd is also working with local music educators including Washington Blues Society, Seattle Academy, Seattle School of Rock, Music Aid Northwest, and the EMP Museum. A follow up workshop is planned for December at the EMP Museum.

“The Northwest is hub of advanced technology expertise and a hub of music. Now we’re collaborating to stimulate students’ interest in STEM careers,” said Cossette. “You don’t have to know how to play the guitar to take the workshop, but in bringing these groups together, I have met a number of people who by day are engineers, teachers and other professionals and by night they follow their passion by playing in a band. We want to heighten interest and knowledge of STEM through music. It’s fun to offer it in a way that combines all of these interests.”

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National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEd)

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