Stumped when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Mentor program provides an answer for high school students interested in entering the design trades.
Each year from November through May, high school students work with local architects, engineers and construction managers. During this time, they reimagine the design of actual developments such as the Comcast Tower Two and the University of Pennsylvania’s New College House.
“Last year we gave them the rough site plan for the Comcast Tower Two,” explained ACE’S Tiffany Millner. “The rough site plan gave them enough to understand why designers need to do certain things. It creates a hypothetical, collaborative experience for the students so they get to see how all of the different disciplines work together to produce the final product.”
Millner, an architect by trade, manages the Eastern Pennsylvania Program. ACE, which began 20 years ago in NYC, is a national program. Philadelphia started its affiliate 15 years ago.
Naturally, Millner cannot say enough about the benefits associated with ACE. As an architect, “I know there is very little exposure to the industry until college,” Millner explained. “I came to the industry because I liked to draw and liked math. And I’m fortunate because my guidance counselor knew this and suggested it. But in today’s day and age, especially in the Philadelphia School District, this doesn’t always happen,” Millner said of the city’s present lack of guidance counselors.
To address this, ACE asks Philadelphia schools to promote its program to students interested in design.
“Architecture draws the most interest, then engineering,” Millner said. As for the construction trades, the ACE program’s involvement rests more on the management side. However, ACE is currently “trying to development a program targeted towards carpentry and electricity…because a lot more students are saying, ‘I want to work with my hands.’”