The assignment: Design and construct a healthcare facility for a diverse population of adults, children, families that enhances the patient and visitor experience, reducing the fear, anxiety and boredom often associated with medical clinics. Use building materials, techniques and approaches that emphasize sustainability, energy efficiency, and eco-friendly products, plus the latest smart building and security technologies. A budget based on price per square foot must accompany your proposal.
That’s no simple assignment for a career professional, much less a high school student. But The ACE Mentor Program is no ordinary extracurricular activity.
Established in 1994 and now operating affiliate chapters around the nation, The ACE Mentor Program provides high school students the opportunity to work with industry professionals in Architecture, Construction and Engineering to build and inspire interest in careers within these critically-needed industries. The culmination of the program is the student competition, which challenges student teams to work on hypothetical design and construction challenges like this year’s healthcare clinic competition. Over 16 weeks, mentor teams meet weekly with students, guiding them through all the planning stages of a hypothetical project, including early conceptual, schematics, layouts, finishes, engineering, logistics, planning, schedules and estimating. The program also includes tours of construction sites and visits to architectural, engineering and construction offices, giving participants a thorough immersion in how it looks and feels to work in these careers.
The student teams present their projects before a live audience including a judging panel of industry experts, and are evaluated for criteria including site selection and context, constructability, sustainability, surrounding landscape/external spaces, and the qualities of the enclosed spaces showing furniture, fittings and finishes.
The Twin Cities chapter of the ACE Mentor Program began with a pilot program in one school in 2011, and has seen exciting growth over the past five years. This year’s “Building Success” student competition March 10 included the participation of 6 schools and 51 students.
Mentors are, of course, vital to facilitating the program’s growth and success. A total of 45 mentors from companies across the Twin Cities volunteered during the school year, including KA’s Jake Boerboon , Program Director; Ken Francois, lead mentor to Irondale High School team. Both project managers are in their fourth year with the ACE Mentor Program. KA’s Chad Larson served in his third year as a lead mentor at Hopkins High School. New mentors this year included KA’s Anthony Leon and Ryan Klick, both mentors for Irondale High School’s 3rd Place team.
While participation requires a significant time commitment for mentors as well as students, the investment is well worth it, say the mentors.
“It is very rewarding to see what the students can learn and accomplish throughout the year,” said Chad Larson. “At the start of the program, most of the students have no idea of what they are getting into and following the final project presentation they are able to look back to see how much they have really learned. The students that we have had are very appreciative of the time that the mentors are able to spend with them and the experiences that we can share with them. The overall goal is to be able to help students gain knowledge/interest of our industry that will eventually bring new talent to the industry.”
“Being a part of the ACE Mentor team was a great experience,” agrees Ryan Klick. “It was great to be able to meet the high school kids and show them what a career in construction could entail for them while challenging them to think about the building process in new ways. It was very rewarding watching how the kids learn to work as a team and the confidence they developed as the program progressed. The icing on the cake was watching our student, Jaden confidently answer questions from the panel of judges (he had to present on his own as the other students had other commitments and cancelled in the last two weeks) and win Irondale third place!” Klick added.
To further encourage that new talent, scholarships are awarded. This year over $8,500 in scholarships were awarded to 7 students. Since its inception, the ACE Mentor Program of the Twin Cities has awarded over $28,000 in scholarships, with 57% awarded to minorities and 22% to females.
For more information about the ACE Mentor Program of the Twin Cities, and how you can help, contact TwinCitiesMN@acementor.org.