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Chicago team wins CIRT-ACE Mentor Nationals

Chicago team wins CIRT-ACE Mentor Nationals

By ROB McMANAMY | April 30, 2015

Earlier this week, the Construction Industry Round Table hosted presentations from the three finalist high school teams at the 9th Annual CIRT-ACE Mentor Program National Design Competition in Washington DC. Team reps from Maryland, Illinois, and Florida, accompanied by their industry mentors from firms such as VOA, BechtelGilbane, and Haskell, all made final pitches before a panel of expert judges, which included AGC of America CEO Stephen Sandherr, Nancy Somerville, CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and Tom Donnelly, president of Los Angeles-based ValleyCrest Landscape Development.

This year, the ACE Mentor Program's national challenge was "to generate innovative ideas for renewing your town/city center.” When the dust settled this week in DC, the top award went to ACE Illinois/Chicago Team 1 for its creative "Park City" project. (See below for project details from mentor VOA's own blog.) Second Place went to ACE of Frederick MD, for its “BRT: Efficient Solutions for Road Transportation Systems” entry. Third Place? Captured by ACE of NE Florida students, who presented on "Harmony Springs Health Clinic."

They're Number One!  ACE Mentor Illinois/Chicago Team 1, mentored by VOA, took home the top prize this week.

They're Number One!  ACE Mentor Illinois/Chicago Team 1, mentored by VOA, took home the top prize this week.

A preview of the finals from earlier this month, by Yao Lin on the VOA Blog on Culture:

I’m thrilled to tell you that the ACE Illinois/Chicago Team 1, mentored by VOA designers after-hours, was chosen as a first time finalist to make a final presentation of its “Park City” entry at CIRT’s Annual Spring Meeting in Washington, DC. alongside finalist ACE teams from Florida and Frederick, MD. This year, a record 46 entries nationwide were submitted and evaluated in the national design competition.

VOA’s Chicago office participated in the ACE Mentor Program for the fourth year in a row along with partner firms in construction and engineering. Founded in 1994, the ACE Mentor Program advises and instructs high school students interested in pursuing careers in design and construction. It reaches over 8,000 students annually nationwide and has awarded over $14 million in scholarships since its founding.

Winning squad: The entire Chicago Team #1. Members and mentors no doubt are smiling even bigger this week!

Winning squad: The entire Chicago Team #1. Members and mentors no doubt are smiling even bigger this week!

During the 19 week program, Chicago’s ACE students (drawn from Chicago public high schools) were introduced to the ACE professions, toured the offices of participating firms and worked on a competition project. Chicago Team 1 started off in November with firm visits and design exercises (the initial VOA visit had ACE students designing hats). Mentors conducted a college night to answer questions about the academic path to architecture careers, and led construction site visits. Read a week-by-week account of Team 1’s experience by VOA’s Lindsay Boley on the Ace Mentor Chicago blog.

Next, Team 1 jumped into the competition project, the City Centre Challenge. This year entrants were “challenged to generate innovative ideas for renewing your town/city center.” The “innovative, transformative, and challenging” idea had to be a viable way to create real change in an identifiable area of the city. Team 1 visited its site of choice and met at VOA every Thursday night for weeks to develop its design, while VOA mentors (Lindsay Boley, Rachna Bhatia, Natalya Falk, Breah Page, John Scherer, Nathan Sonoskey, and myself) helped students navigate the basics of CAD, Sketchup, Photoshop, Revit, and hone their project presentation skills.

Team 1 developed its own master plan for new construction and rejuvenation of an underutilized area of the city near the Chicago River. The team visited the site and talked to locals about their needs before choosing to develop the area in five different zones, each with its own urban attraction.

Groups of 3-4 students were assigned to each zone (recreation center, landscaped amphitheater, skate park, food truck park, and dog park) and each group was represented by its own “project manager”, who sorted out design details between the groups. Team 1’s competition submission included designs for all five areas as well as explanations of project budget, sustainability and schedule. The team presented the Park City project in early April at the UIC Forum, where it was chosen a finalist.

NOTE: ACE Mentor Chicago recently set a record, raising $237,000 at its 15th Anniversary luncheon. This will enable it to offer more scholarships, and to continue investing in the Summer Design-Build Project with the Chicago Park District. VOA is proud of its continued association with ACE Mentor Chicago. For more information on the organization, please click here.

For more information on the national competition, click here to read the CIRT press release from March 31. At that time, CIRT President Mark Casso noted, "The quality and level of the entries were the strongest they have ever been in the nine year history of the competition, making the job of the judges all that more difficult."

A difficult job, but one delivered on time, nonetheless. Congratulations to all the teams!

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