Carolyn LaPrete loves playing the guitar.
"I started playing the guitar my freshman year," the Grandview Heights High School senior said. "The first time I picked up a guitar and started playing it, I really, really got into it. It's just a lot of fun to play a guitar."
That goes double for her electric guitar -- because she designed and built it herself.
LaPrete was able to build her guitar using technology and equipment, including a CNC router, in industrial technology teacher Brad Gintert's classroom.
And it's not just the instrument she designed.
As part of the school's Explore Course program, she created an independent study class built around her guitar project.
"At the time, I was really interested in pursuing an engineering career and I wanted to create a class that would let me explore aspects of engineering that aren't really covered in our regular classes," she said.
The independent study option "is really rewarding," LaPrete said. "It gives you exactly what you want from a class. In a regular class, there are parts of it you like, and there may be parts of it you don't like."
The Explore Course program "empowers students as architects of their own learning experience and allows them to pursue their passions and interests in an meaningful way," high school Principal Ken Chaffin said.
Students who create their own independent classes "are able to learn and develop 21st-century learning skills at a level of depth they haven't experienced before," Chaffin said.
During their Explore Course projects, students work closely with a teacher, he said.
"The course plan they come up with has to be approved to make sure it meets the necessary rigor," Chaffin said.
About 30 students are participating in independent learning projects this school year, he said.
It's an opportunity for students, but one that is challenging and demanding, Chaffin said.
"As always with Grandview Heights High School students, if you provide them with a challenge, they will rise to it," he said.
It took about nine months for LaPrete to complete her independent study course, from developing the class to designing the guitar, to the physical work of building it.
The most challenging part was figuring out the correct design of the body of the guitar on a computer, she said.
"You really have to be precise, because everything has to fit together," LaPrete said. "It was a lot of careful trial and error to get the design just right."
While other students have built musical instruments in Gintert's classroom, her project was the first time a student was able to use the CNC router for the project, she said.
The router -- a machine for cutting hard materials such as wood, plastic and metal that's controlled by a computer -- made building the guitar easier because it allowed for more precision in configuring the components of the instrument, LaPrete said.
"It gives you more precision than (cutting) the pieces by hand," she said.
LaPrete said she feels a sense of pride each time she plays her electric guitar.
"It was an awesome feeling the first time I played it, knowing it was something I built myself," she said. "I learned a lot about the electronics and the different parts of a guitar. Now I know the function of each part and how they connect to the other components of a guitar."
Along with engineering, LaPrete said she is interested in studying applied mathematics at college.
She also plays piano and trumpet.
"A guitar is a lot of fun to play because it's easier to play a lot of different styles of music on a guitar," LaPrete said. "You can just pick up a guitar and start strumming a tune. You really can't do that as easily with a trumpet."