EAST ROCKHILL — There were only two of the new Level 2 STEM Guitar Workshops in the country this year.

One was at Pennridge High School the week of Aug. 12 through 16.

Pennridge already has a guitar making class. 

"This is to teach educators how to go and do it in their school or university," Allen Androkites said about the workshop. Androkites, who was one of the instructors for the workshop, teaches advanced level woodworking at Pennridge and is the district's Tech Ed/STEM Department coordinator for grades six through 12.

Level 1 workshops for electric guitars have been going on for about 10 years, but Level 2 for acoustic guitars is new this year, Matt Peitzman, who teaches Pennridge's guitar making class and was one of the class participants, said.

 Not all the participants currently have a guitar making class where they teach, he said. Some are hoping to start classes at their school, he said. 

"We're still pretty unique here at Pennridge with that class that I teach," Peitzman said.

Although the Pennridge class already included acoustic guitars, there were things in the workshop that were new to him, Peitzman said.

The industry partner for the workshop was Taylor Guitars, he said. 

"Here at Pennridge, we make acoustics based off what Martin Guitar does, so there were things different for this based on that Taylor model — not necessarily better or worse, just different," Peitzman said. 

Although most of the workshop participants were from southeastern Pennsylvania, there were ones from as far away as Tennessee and Connecticut, he said.

Five of the 12 people taking the workshop — Peitzman, Adam Killion, Tyler Roth, Jeffrey Swartz and Dan Zickler — are Pennridge graduates who had him as a teacher, Androkites said. The three instructors were Androkites, Ed Ufford and Tim Wilhelm. 

A ukulele and electric guitar club was started at Pennridge in the fall of 2015, with a course for guitar building added the following year, Androkites said. 

A lot of schools that offer the option of students learning to make guitars or ukuleles do it in woodworking classes, but not as a separate class, he said.

Last year's Level 1 workshop included many of the same participants learning how to make the body for an electric guitar using a CNC (computer numerical control) router, Androkites said. 

When he asked one of the participants to compare the two workshops, the participant said learning how to CNC the electric guitar bodies was extremely valuable to him in his classroom teaching, while learning to make the acoustic guitar was not at all similar, so he learned a lot more from that workshop, Androkites said.

The Pennridge workshop took place two weeks after the first Level 2 STEM Guitar Workshop with a different group of participants was held at Hanford High School in the state of Washington. Ufford, who teaches at Hanford, and Androkites were the instructors. 

Hanford is on a high desert plateau and gets little rain, Ufford said. 

"What we do at Hanford's a little bit different here because of the way the humidity affects the wood. It shrinks a lot more at Hanford, so we had to get the kits here a lot sooner so they could acclimate to the weather, to the climate," he said.

It helps to build the guitar in the environment it will be used in, he said. 

For example, he said, he built a guitar at Perdue University in Indiana, then took it back to Hanford, where the wood shrunk and moved. 

"You have to give the wood time to acclimate to your environment where you're building," Ufford said. "We try to get the wood in at least six to eight weeks prior to the build so it has time to dry out," and form a moisture equilibrium.

After learning from the initial presentation in Hanford, the workshop was streamlined for the Pennridge presentation, he said. 

"At my build, we were staying well past 5 o'clock each day. We were putting in almost 10 hour days to get it done," Ufford said. 

At Pennridge, the workshop was completed with eight hour days, he said. 

STEM Guitar is a nationally funded project through Sinclair Community College in Ohio, Peitzman said. Information is available at www.guitarbuilding.org

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