An honorable quality for an educator is placing trust in their students while providing guidance and support when needed. Mr. “Buzz” Nichols embodies this, allowing his students to effectively build skills in woodworking and carpentry. He cultivates free-thinking and independence in his students while providing knowledgeable support. The Industrial Fabrication class uses this mutual-respect classroom culture to complete individual and group projects.
Burris “Buzz” Nichols teaches Industrial Fabrication, amongst other courses, at Wasatch Academy. Mr. Nichols grew up in West Michigan, and as a young man moved to Arizona, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in English education from Northern Arizona University. He taught at Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy in Prescott, Arizona, and at the International School of Myanmar in Yangon, Myanmar. He returned to higher education in 2016 to pursue a Master of Arts degree in humanities at Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona. Buzz enjoys music, hiking, and playing with his two children, Hank and Phoebe, and his dog, Molly, as well as teaching Industrial Fabrication.
Mr. Nichols explained his choice for teaching this course by sharing, “I want students to understand that what they are making isn’t just something for me to put a grade on, and I want their work to have a destination less ignominious than the trash. I want them to create something they can be proud of. So I suppose it’s only natural a course like industrial fabrication appealed to me. This class is a distillation of my educational philosophy; it is metaphor made literal. I believe in giving students the tools to succeed, showing them how to use those tools, and guiding them as they create something novel, something that reflects their unique passions.”
In industrial fabrication, students first demonstrate basic skills and safety procedures on a range of tools under direct instruction and supervision. Creating Industrial Fabrication projects in the classroom requires adequate space and proper tools. The newest building on campus, the John W. and Elizabeth Lee Engineering Arts Building, provides those things. The facility is home to robotics, rocketry, engineering, and industrial fabrication. The current courses are supported by state-of-the-art equipment such as 3D printers, heavy workshop machinery, and laser cutters. If the students can conceptualize it, they can build it.
When Mr. Nichols’ students are not building a practice stage in the Music Conservatory for the Center for Contemporary Music program or learning new techniques for woodworking, they’re focused on their personal projects. Students have the freedom to choose what they would like to work on and Mr. Nichols provides his expertise in supporting them. Some of the projects in the works right now are a bass guitar, a table, a folding chair, a dice tray for Dungeons and Dragons, and a longboard.
Mr. Nichols shared that his teaching style allows students to explore a range of techniques while building something that they can cherish, explaining, “That, ultimately, is what I want my students to take away from this course. They are capable of incredible things, and the things they create are worthy of being cherished. I want them to apply this ethos not only to the physical things they produce in industrial fabrication, but to all their endeavors.”