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Rotunda Guitar

Engineers create an unusual instrument

In honor of the School of Engineering’s 175th anniversary, Gavin Garner, an assistant professor in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department, helped four of his students design and build a one-of-a-kind guitar that is also a replica of the Rotunda.

Gavin Garner

“Probably the most difficult part of the process was coming up with ways to mount and cut out the body and neck on the CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine,” says Jacob Bagwell (Engr ‘12), one of the students who made the walnut-and-mahogany guitar. “The neck was slightly too long for the CNC table and it also had a 15-degree angle from the face of the neck to the headstock, which made mounting for cutting the headstock interesting as well.”

Lloyd Harriott, chair of the electrical and computer engineering department, played the guitar at a gala this fall. He debuted the guitar with the “Good Old Song.” “The guitar had a warm, crisp, clear sound to it,” says Bagwell.

In Garner’s advanced mechatronics course, students develop technical design skills by building electric guitars of their own design, then enhancing the sound with effects pedals. Garner is now leading students in the re-engineering and building of a UVA-themed pinball machine.