Return to Headlines

McKinley Teachers Collaborate on Groundbreaking Adaptive Pick to Help Student Play Guitar

  Through innovation and collaboration, a McKinley student is realizing his dream to play the guitar.
  Each year, the CTE pre-engineering students at McKinley Senior High School spend a significant amount of time learning how to design and print 3-D projects.
 The goal, said teacher Chad Weaver, “is to design things that make people’s lives better.”
  Through a partnership with guitar instructor George Dean, they have certainly accomplished that for freshman student Nehemiah Culver.
  Dean recently reached out with a request for the class: 
  Can the pre-engineering students use the 3-D printer to develop a custom assistive device that would help one of his students play the guitar? Culver needed a device that would help him hold a guitar pick.
  Weaver got to work immediately. While the need for a quick response prevented the pre-engineering students from being able to initially design the device, they were an integral part of the input team as the need for changes in the design arose. 
  “You know when there is a will, there has to be a way,” emphasized Weaver. “Nehemiah had the will to play, Mr. Dean had the will to help him do so and I was determined to find a way.” 
  Nehemiah was involved with the band during his middle school years but was unable to continue as a freshman due to scheduling conflicts, so he decided to join the guitar ensemble class as an alternative. The class allows him to stay involved in music.  
 Adapting the instrument is something seen throughout history.
  “We saw the guitar change from the Baroque guitar into what it is today with the designs of Antonio De Torres. In fact, Eddie Van Halen was always making adaptations to his guitars. He reimagined it often throughout his career,” said Dean.
  The guitar Nehemiah uses in class was Dean’s personal instrument.
  “I added a strap,” said Dean, “and changed the nut and the saddle of the guitar so that it could be played left-handed. When someone plays the guitar, you have to think about all points of contact. You want him to have forgiveness, so that he can vary dynamically, to play softer or harder.” Dean explained. 
  Both instructors worked closely with each other, Nehemiah, and the engineering students to design an effective, assistive device that would provide an enhanced playing experience.
  “My daughter is a Music Therapy major at Cleveland State who is concentrating on voice and guitar,” Weaver explained. “So I reached out to her and also to Nehemiah’s physical therapist, Dona Brown, during the development phase. They were both able to provide good feedback from the therapy side.” 
  After a few trials, a few errors, and three different prototypes, a final design was given to Nehemiah to use.
  “This device helps Nehemiah with accuracy, to play melody and harmony,” said Mr. Dean. “He wouldn’t have been able to interact with the music in the same way without it.” 
  Over the years, students in the CTE pre-engineering class have developed a prosthetic leg protector, a welding device that is used to test a weld, and even houses that students enrolled in Construction Technology are preparing to build, to name a few. 

Watch Nehemiah play here: