Old shop class now industrial fabrication at WA

Paul Olmstead works with students during shop class, which he taught at Wasatch Academy until the early 1980s. Shop class has now returned to the academy, but is now known as industrial fabrication and is housed in the new John W. and Elizabeth Lee Engineering Arts Building. (Photo courtesy of Wasatch Academy)

MT. PLEASANT — Industrial fabrication has now come to Wasatch Academy (WA) but the whole concept has been there before under the name of shop class.

Walking with alumni around the WA campus, a lot about the history of the academy can be learned. Many alums remember one class in particular known as shop.

Shop class was 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 WA. 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 classes now serves as the place where students receive academic support.

Unlike the classes of today’s WA, for many years shop class was only open to male students while home economics classes were only open to female students. Around 1981, toward the end of shop class being offered at WA, girls were permitted in the class under the direction of Doug Gordon.

After the Olmsteads left the school in 1983, the shop program faded away. Times changed and shop classes became a distant memory in Wasatch Academy’s story, but that all changed this year when the newest building on campus, the John W. and Elizabeth Lee Engineering Arts Building, opened its doors.

WA 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 the campus. Students are currently repurposing the stage set from a production of “Noises Off” as they use the wood to build a new stage in the Music Conservatory.

The new stage is for Analog Crush, the Center of Contemporary Music’s newly formed band. 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 WA community.

The community as a whole is excited to celebrate the Olmstead legacy by continuing the tradition of fabrication introduced many decades ago. The new 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.