One of the most important projects our industry faces is building the future talent force: the next generation of architects, engineers, and construction professionals who will be tasked with creating our infrastructure. The nonprofit ACE Mentor Program is an incubator for that talent.
ACE brings together promising high school students with local building industry professionals to explore career opportunities in Architecture, Construction and Engineering. Established in 1994, ACE operates 80 affiliate chapters in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
Students from five area high schools competed in the third annual “Building Success”ACE Twin Cities Student Competition March 12, 2014 at the University of Minnesota. Teams from Johnson, Washburn, Shakopee, Hopkins and Irondale high schools tackled this year’s hypothetical challenge: designing and building the library of tomorrow to replace or update their current school libraries. Judging criteria included the team’s thought process, success in addressing needs, sustainability considerations, estimating, design and presentation.
The teams presented a spectrum of inventive ideas, including expansive windows, rooftop decks, green roof, solar panels, atriums and collaborative work areas. Johnson High School took home the trophy. (View a 3D animation of their design) However, the experience of taking a project from Request for Proposal (RFP) through design, planning, scheduling, estimating and presentation makes every student a winner, said Jake Boerboon, ACE program director.
This is Boerboon’s third year in ACE, and first as program director. He is one of four Kraus-Anderson project managers participating in this year’s program.
“Many of the schools have industrial technology programs, so this is not their first exposure to these concepts. But the hands-on experience of working collaboratively and taking a project through all the steps is invaluable,” said Boerboon.
“It’s terrific exposure for the kids to understand what we do, and appreciate the work that goes into a project,” agreed Kraus-Anderson’s Ken Francois, also a third year ACE mentor. Francois and Yusef Haddad of Ryan Companies were named Mentors of the Year. KA’s Chad Larson and Bob Janssen also mentored teams.
“A lot of them come in not understanding the different disciplines, they think there’s only one type of engineering,” said Francois. “They come away seeing the importance of teamwork.”
The student competition is the culmination of four months’ of intense preparation, guided by industry professionals from a dozen companies, including Architectural Alliance, Mortenson, MBJ, ERA, Harris Companies, BWBR Architects, HGA Architects, Ryan Companies, Parsons Electric, PCL Construction, McGough and Kraus-Anderson. ACE is bolstered by the additional support of more than 30 companies.
Mentoring requires a significant time commitment of up to 150 hours over 16 weeks. Mentor teams meet weekly with students, guiding them through all the planning stages of a hypothetical project, from 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.
While the mentors provide professional perspective and guidance, it is the students who take ownership of the project and work through its challenges. “The mentor shows a yellow brick road, but it’s the kids who have to do all the work. As a mentor you have to remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them,” Boerboon said.
“It’s amazing how the ones who have been in the program all three years show the others what to do,” Boerboon said. “The kids raise the bar each year.”
The live presentations are thoroughly prepared and highly sophisticated, utilizing state-of-the-art show and tell tools including BIM models, hand models, 3D animations and 3D printed models.
While getting a trophy is nice, the competition isn’t an end unto itself, but a spark for the beginning of bright futures. This year’s event also included the presentation of $10,000 in scholarships to six students including Johnson High School senior Alejandro Loza. After helping the Johnson team to two back-to-back wins, Loza is going on to study architecture and civil engineering.
“ACE has played a very big role in my decision to pursue a career in these fields as they have taught and shown me what kind of work environments, responsibilities, and activities people in these industries have and do,” said Loza. “Meeting deadlines, being organized, compromising and giving formal presentations are just some of the skills I have learned that will benefit me greatly once I enter into college.”
“I hope this program will be continued and expanded to other schools so that students like me can be introduced to these projects and possible careers the ACE industry has to offer.”
And that’s something to build on.