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Is Guitar Building Right for Us? 

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

Most Fab Labs work to keep memberships affordable and are concerned about overall future financial viability of their Labs. We strive to run Fab Lab ICC like a small business, selling materials to members at a modest profit to help with expenses and charging modest fees for the community classes we offer. In our case, we are owned by ICC and receive some financial support since we develop new academic and work force courses. It's a great combination. 

As a small business, we are always on the lookout both for revenue opportunities and innovative training programs. Occasionally, we find a concept that has the potential to provide both a revenue stream and unique, interesting and fun (many would say really cool) learning opportunities. 

Guitar Assembly and Kit-Making 

Enter the guitar assembly and kit-making business. A couple of years ago, some people at a community college in Ohio saw the potential of guitar making in facilitating math and science learning. There's a lot of math and science that goes into the guitar; we don’t realize it since guitars have been a part of our culture for so long. They wrote a grant application to the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the objective of launching a guitar making initiative to help get young people interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) by engaging them in the fun, but STEM-challenging activity of making a guitar. 

Early Start-Up of Guitar Assembly 

We wanted to offer electric guitar assembly classes (from kits) and were planning to wait until next fall when our new building is completed, but it is starting now and we can't stop it. After mentioning guitar-making at an ICC all staff in-service event recently, Matt Carter, our associate professor of music came to us. He said he had four students in a class to learn to play the guitar and wondered if they might be able to assemble their own electric guitars from kits available for purchase as part of the NSF STEM guitar initiative. We told him we thought we could accommodate four students assembling and finishing their guitars in the Fab Lab but they would have to take the guitars with them after each work session as we don't have space to store them. Matt came back to the lab the other day saying word had gotten out of the guitar assembly aspect of this class and he now had nine in the class he was trying to cap at eight. Seems the ninth student begged him to be included in the class. We will try to accommodate these nine eager guitar makers and aspiring players in this spring semester with a full launch next fall. 

Potential Guitar Kit Manufacturing 

In the meantime, we've established a relationship with the college in Ohio and they've invited us to enter the electric guitar kit manufacturing business to help them fill the demand for these kits across the nation. We've found two local experts in manufacturing processes that are willing to help us. One is recently retired and the other, while still working full time, is a master at all things guitar-making and repair. They have both indicated an interest in helping us with this entry into the guitar assembly class and guitar kit manufacturing business. 

The assembly classes will be offered starting next fall as community classes, mostly in the evening for anyone who would like to make their own guitars. One doesn't have to be able to play a guitar in order to build one. In other classes around the United States, whether the participants can play or not is secondary to their desire to make and own a precise musical instrument. 

The kit manufacturing process, along with all the related quality, consistency and scheduling disciplines necessary to make and ship products in fulfillment of customer orders will be woven into the coursework of the Fab Force certificate program we are now putting together for launch in the fall. 

Guitar Building Is For Us 

It seems to use that; indeed, guitar making is for us, providing some revenue potential for Fab Lab ICC while also offering interesting, fun and really cool learning opportunities both for our ICC students and our area community members. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at or Twitter @jimcorrellks. 

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