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ACE entryThe ACE Mentor Program for high-school students interested in construction, engineering and architecture has paid off for the fledgling chapter based at UNC Charlotte. The chapter recently won ACE’s regional design challenge.

The challenge: to reimagine a high school.

Students’ reward: working closely with architects, engineers, planners and other construction professionals.

“I’m super-duper proud of these kids. They crushed it!” said Tobe Holmes, the chapter’s advisor. Holmes, the planning and development director for University City Partners, helped launch the ACE-UNC Charlotte chapter during the 2016-17 school year.


About the ACE Mentor Program

The ACE Mentor Program’s mission is to engage, excite and enlighten high-school students to pursue careers in architecture, construction and engineering. One critical aspect of achieving this goal is to appeal to and mentor minority and female students.

Members of the ACE-UNC Charlotte chapter come from Mallard Creek High, Vance High, the university’s Charlotte Early Engineering College and other north Mecklenburg high schools.

The students meet every two weeks throughout the school year in the UNC Charlotte alumni center.

In the fall, students learn about public speaking, engineering principals, structural design, planning and development, both at UNC Charlotte and through field trips. The spring semester is focused on the big project competition.


The winning idea: Students CEEC’ing Space

This year’s competition challenge was to reimagine an existing school and make it both more functional and with a better environment.

The ACE-UNC Charlotte team had no problem finding their challenge: How to add substantially more space to the modular one-story home of the Charlotte Early Engineering College.

The building itself – comprised of a dozen modular classrooms linked by a central hallway – also provided the inspiration for their winning idea, Holmes says: “If we already use construction trailers for classrooms, we can use shipping containers, too.”

Working with several advisers from Turner Construction, Duke Energy and Manning Design and Engineering Group, students brainstormed the current structure’s deficiencies, the improved learning environment they would like and ways to make those improvements on a limited physical campus and with limited funds. Students also were encouraged to consider environmental impact.

Rendering of 3rd floor library

Rendering of 3rd floor library

One young woman used modeling software to turn those ideas into a full architectural model.

Power Point slides created for the final presentation show existing CEEC campus conditions, the benefits of using shipping containers to expand their building from one to three floors and lifelike three-dimensional renderings of how the expanded structure might appear, complete with future students searching the shelves of a shipping-container-style library and study center.


And the winners are …

The competition culminated at a banquet on May 10. Presentation teams from each of seven Charlotte-area ACE chapters met with judges and gave their presentations to the full group.

Winning team from ACE-UNC Charlotte

The winners celebrate!

Representing ACE-UNC Charlotte were Quinn Smith, Ariana Stout, Alexia Kallaur, Camryn Louder, Wesley Brakman and Jelani Gatson.

Holmes said he was “surprised a little bit” that his team won. “But going into the day, I knew we had a good chance,” he added. “As soon as I saw the model that our team member had created, I knew we had something to work with. And with her tenacity, it just kept going.”

The ACE -UNC Charlotte chapter took home first place and bragging rights for the coming year.

Two seniors on the ACE-UNC Charlotte team members received $3,500 scholarships for their efforts.

The rest of the chapter gained valuable experience for next school year and future career paths, plus the benefit of working closely with adult professionals.

Holmes says the chapter could not have won without help from several volunteers: Co-chapter lead Kym Gardner of Turner Construction and mentors Allie Alu, Kurrisa Vialet and Bri’Shae Anderson of Turner Construction; Rich Manning of Manning Design and Engineering Group; and Juniel Miller of Duke Energy.


Wanted: High-school students (and adults) for the ACE Mentor Program

if you know students who will attend a Charlotte-area high school next year and have an interest in construction, architecture or engineering, Holmes strongly encourages you to talk to them about joining one of the ACE Charlotte programs, including the UNC Charlotte chapter.

Students who say they have no interest in college should consider the program, too, he says, because the building trades have great need for people with training in masonry, plumbing and other building trades.

Finally, the ACE Mentor Program can only work with adult volunteers.

Learn more by visiting acementor.org or contact Holmes at tholmes@universitycitypartners.org

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