OpenGuitar

OpenGuitar is a project with focus on STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) for children and teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The project was founded by Fernando Bravo (CV) and has complementary support by Autodesk (Fusion 360), SoundCloud, Cycling 74 (MaxMSP), Seitenwechsel (Meisterwerkstatt für Gitarrenbau), Konglomerat (CAM manufacturing), Alas DAO, Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau (CAM manufacturing), and holds a scientific research link with the University of Cambridge (UK) [more information].

The ‘OpenGuitar’ is an experimental guitar that can be assembled in small workshops. The instrument building process is designed as an engaging and creative activity, which teaches a broad spectrum of skills, from 3D design and hands-on woodworking to computer aided manufacturing (CAM), sensor robotics and computer programming with a focus on the elemental math behind digital signal processing.

3D Design

Computer-aided Design and Manufacturing (CAD/CAM)

Hands-on woodworking with sustainable materials

Electronics and Programming
(Digital Signal Processing)

The importance of STEM in post-COVID-19 efforts

On March 2020, several Latinoamerican countries took radical measures to limit the spread of the new COVID-19 (coronavirus), including the closure of primary, secondary, tertiary, and technical-vocational schools.

OpenGuitar initiated its international workshops program in Argentina in 2021.

The impact of school closures due to the COVID-19

Even relatively short periods of missed school time have enduring effects on the development of cognitive skills. The impact is deemed significantly greater in younger children. Evidence shows that investments in children’s learning tend to be complementary over time; meaning that gaining a high skills level during early childhood, makes it much easier to acquire additional skills in subsequent periods. This also implies that "time without school" is likely to have a mayor detrimental impact on young children (see also the following report).

School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemics will also have severe social and economic consequences that will endure for decades. Convergent evidence shows that earnings depend on skills, with lower skills meaning lower earnings. For example, if a student misses a third of a school year, and each school year brings -roughly- a 10% return, the earnings' potential will be lower, by around 3% per year. The worst effects of school shut-downs are currently experienced by those from lower socio-economic groups. Studies estimate that, without appropriate counteractions, from mid-2030s and for the next 50 years, around a quarter of the entire affected population will have lower skills and reduced abilities.

While the closure duration of schools is still uncertain, any extended interruption of education can have serious consequences: children not only risk to fall far behind in their learning, but those who were already vulnerable may never return to school. Moreover, closure of schools also entails the interruption of access to other important basic services provided by schools such as school meals, health, water, sanitation, hygiene, recreational programs, social interactions, extracurricular activities, as well as pedagogical and psychosocial support.

As COVID-19 has grown in Latin America and the Caribbean region, 23 countries and 12 independent states in the region have decided to progressively close their educational institutions at all levels. As a result, it is estimated that over 140 million children and adolescents have been affected at preschool, primary and secondary levels throughout the region for a prolonged period of more than nine months.

The situation in Latin America and the case of Argentina.

Released ahead of World Children’s Day (19 November 2020), Averting a Lost COVID Generation is the first UNICEF report to comprehensively outline the significant and growing consequences for children of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report clearly shows that while symptoms among infected children remain mild, the longer-term impact on the education, nutrition and well-being of an entire generation of children and young people can be life-altering.

By the end of 2020, COVID-19 is putting education on hold for more than 137 million children - 97 per cent of students - in Latin America and the Caribbean,  according to a new UNICEF report  about the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on education.  

The report also finds that COVID-19 has further widened the education gaps between rich and poor families in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The education gains earned by these countries over the past decades are now at risk of being reversed. The economic impact of this education crisis will be felt for years to come. New UNICEF data shows that the percentage of children not receiving any form of education across the region has soared dramatically,  from 4 to 18 per cent in the past few months. UN projections reveal that COVID-19 may push up to 3 million additional children out of school in Latin America and the Caribbean (for more information see: over 97 per cent of students still out of the classrooms in Latin America and the Caribbean; and UNICEF's response to the educational challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean region during COVID-19).

Since the start of the pandemic, children in Latin American and the Caribbean have already lost on average four times more days of schooling (174) compared to the rest of the world. While schools are gradually reopening in several parts of the world, the vast majority of classrooms are still closed across the region. Over one-third of all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have yet to set a date for school reopening and students have missed out on the entire school year.  Argentina is among these countries. [UNICEF's full Report in spanish, Report summary in english].

The actual loss of learning in the current pandemic will vary by context, depending in part on what schools and families have been able to provide in the way of remote schooling. Children from low-income households in particular are more likely to lack the resources – space, equipment, home support – to engage fully with remote schooling. In Argentina, the statistics from the survey "Aprender 2018", which focused on primary school children, showed that in higher income sectors, 99.45% of the children had internet connection at home, while only 49% in vulnerable areas.

According to estimates from the Childhood Social Debt Barometer (UCA), in the third quarter of 2019, 48.7% of children between 5 and 17 years old did not have a computer at home, and 47.1% had no fixed home internet service.

Currently (2020), there are seven Argentinian provinces where a third or more of the students do not have a connection at home: Santiago del Estero (40.7%), Formosa (37.7%), San Juan (36.1%), Catamarca ( 35.0%), Misiones (35.0%), Chaco (33.5%) and Corrientes (33.3%).

The plan "Conectar Igualdad", which provided netbooks to high school students, was born in 2010 and was suspended in 2018 during the government of Mauricio Macri, to be replaced by the plan Aprender Conectados. Beyond the differences in focus between the two schemes, these programs brought internet access to schools. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, these computers became practically useless, as a large part of the student population does not have internet at home.

The situation is complex not only for the students, but also for Argentinian teachers, who, in large part due to the meagre salaries they receive, do not have the tools to carry out distance classes either. Reports from from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella and the "Observatorio Argentinos por la Educación", revealed that 25% of the teachers working in vulnerable schools in the city and province of Buenos Aires do not have access to internet in their homes. Only 51% of state elementary schools could maintain daily contact with students from the start of the COVID-19 isolation, with 81.6% employing solely asynchronous activities (e.g. WhatsApp) without any interaction between students and the educators. Remote learning has affected all students. Within the most vulnerable sectors, numerous children have been exposed to very low-intensity schooling; the less fortunate have been abandoned.

The COVID-19 pandemic is severely impacting Argentinian education, as well as other neighbouring Latin America and the Caribbean countries. For a few children, it will just be an unhappy memory; but for many, it will represent the end point of their schooling. A significant percentage of children are expected to never return back to school (See also: Poor children are being ‘failed by the system’ on road to higher education in lower-income countries).

OpenGuitar aims to provide an education ‘bundle’ in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math) through the construction, manipulation and playing of a musical instrument.

How does the OpenGuitar work?

The core concept underlying the OpenGuitar is that, although it can function as a normal piezo driven nylon-string guitar, to obtain the best sound, it needs to be plugged into a computer. The OpenGuitar is equipped with an electronic pickup system that allows the connection with specialised computer software, which in turn enables a broad spectrum of sound and music making capabilities. Consequently, while children engage in musical explorations they learn basic skills in computer programming through step-by-step music computing tutorials.

Building the pickups with piezo discs
(sound capture)

Constructing custom-made preamps
(sound amplification)

OpenGuitar_Piezo Testing.mov

Testing pickups and preamps via free-standing bridges

Playing in music ensembles

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Images from workshops conducted in Meißen together with Torsten Goerke (robotics/informatics), Achim Schiffner (electronics) and Diego Jahn (chemistry)

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OpenGuitar preparation (hand-work)

If you know of a place (e.g. school, educational centre, hospital, etc.) where you think the OpenGuitar workshops could be helpful, please let us know by filling the information in this Form. The workshops will be free in places that lack resources; otherwise, we charge a fee that depends on the workshop's characteristics. We only need a suitable room, and we bring all the tools and materials required. The workshops' focus and duration can be adjusted depending on the students' background and age (usually between 12-17 years old). We especially welcome enquiries from institutions working with children and adolescents from disadvantages backgrounds (including children with disabilities, marginalised children and those living in humanitarian and emergency settings).

We will be able to accept donations in the near future, once OpenGuitar is registered as a charitable project. In the meantime to support us, just share the word and let us know about you.

Finally, if you are curious about actually playing an OpenGuitar yourself; we are developing a Professional version called Alas guitar. The mission of Alas guitars is to support long-term the OpenGuitar project. The first batch of Alas prototypes is now being manufactured. If you are interested, visit Alas Guitars Website and contact us (email).

Live OpenGuitar performance of Fernando Bravo during Kurzfilmtag 2020, for an experimental version of the shortfilm DISSONANCE by Till Nowak. Permission to use the visual content of the shortfilm has been generously granted by Till Nowak [the original version can be accessed here].