Walking with alumni around campus, one learns a lot about the history of the Wasatch Academy. Many alums remember one class in particular, shop, taught famously by Paul Olmstead from the 1950s up until the early 1980s. For almost 30 years, the Olmsteads (Paul and his wife Shirley) were an institution at Wasatch Academy. With the reintroduction of shop class, now titled industrial fabrication, in the John W. and Elizabeth Lee Engineering Arts Building, the long tradition of experiential learning continues today.
Paul Olmstead once was the anchor of teaching shop at Wasatch Academy. Initially shop class took place in the Craighead Vocational Building, known later as the Administration Building and known today as the Learning Services Building. The same building that once was home to woodworking and craftsmanship today serves as the place where students receive academic support.
Unlike the classes of Wasatch Academy today, for many years the shop class was only open to male students while home economics classes were only open to female students. Towards the end of shop class as an offering at Wasatch Academy around 1981, girls were permitted in the class under the direction of Doug Gordon.
After the Olmsteads left the school in 1983, the shop program at Wasatch Academy faded away. Times changed, and shop classes became a distant memory in Wasatch Academy’s story. That all changed this year when the newest building on campus, the John W. and Elizabeth Lee Engineering Arts Building, opened its doors. Wasatch Academy is excited to build on the tradition that Paul Olmstead started with the introduction of industrial fabrication. This new facility not only creates space for robotics and rocketry but also provides a beautiful area for hands-on fabrication. Courses offered build on many of the foundations taught years ago in shop class and now incorporate more technology into the fabrication process.
The industrial fabrication class has already begun to work on projects impacting campus. Students are currently repurposing the stage set from a production of “Noises Off” as they use the wood to build a stage in the Music Conservatory for Analog Crush, the Center of Contemporary Music’s newly formed band. The general public can watch the evolution of the project on the Wasatch Academy Instagram account. This is the first of many projects the class is embarking on to not only learn valuable skills but also to give back to the Wasatch Academy community.
The community as a whole is excited to celebrate the Olmstead legacy by continuing the tradition of fabrication introduced many decades ago. Today, Wasatch Academy’s industrial fabrication class is a melting pot of students from all backgrounds working with their hands to create projects that will stand the test of time.