Wilhelm > News > Students gain better understanding of the A/E/C industry through ACE Mentorship

Students gain better understanding of the A/E/C industry through ACE Mentorship

Students everywhere are gearing up to head back to school in the next month. A unique opportunity some schools in the Indianapolis area provide is the ACE Mentorship Program. ACE (architecture, construction and engineering) is a national program offering interested high school students the experience of designing a realistic building project with guidance provided by industrial professionals.

Wilhelm has been involved with ACE for seven years. Business Development Manager Evans Wells has volunteered for the past four years mentoring students. “I really enjoy seeing the kids challenged and engaged. It is always a great experience.”

Wilhelm Project Engineer Robert Ramey has mentored students from North Central High School for two years. “The best part of the experience is the growth of the students. They come in shy or without any knowledge of architecture, construction or engineering. Then they learn and apply it along the way and you get to see it all pour out in the final project. It’s really cool – they’re smart kids,” says Ramey.

Having a program like this would have helped him narrow down choices in college, Ramey shared. “The program includes a day for the students to just ask questions about college. For them to have an outlet like [ACE] to ask someone who has been through it is good. They don’t all have that at home.”

How the program works

Participating schools are presented with a common project to design, engineer and complete preconstruction. They get hands on experience starting with civil design, all the way through the mechanical and electrical design. Construction Management skills, such as preparing cost estimates and project schedules, are also incorporated in the program.

Current Indiana-affiliated high schools are Arsenal Technical, Decatur, Pike, George Washington Community, North Central and Lawrence Township at the McKenzie Career Center.

Teams consist of 16 to 30 students and 6 to 8 mentors. Teams tour the project site at the beginning of the school year. Most recently, students were able to select a site in the community to place a YMCA.

Each team meets for two to three hours every other week during the school year. Students break into architectural, construction and engineering groups. Contractors work on phasing plans. Architects and engineers work on design. If one group has a question, it issues a Request for Information (RFI), just like the “real world”.

At the end of the year, all of the students gather before families, teachers prospective mentors and affiliate administrators for a final presentation night. ACE has awarded more than $220,000 in scholarships to Indianapolis-area students throughout the past six years.

Student selection
Each school has its own process. Any student in grades 9 through 12 are eligible.

Students visit professional offices, learn about construction industry careers, and make connections with professionals for internships and post-college career opportunities. They learn basic concepts about the planning and design of the built environment and hopefully they start asking questions about their own environment.

“I am extremely proud of all the students. We are just starting to see them graduate and actually come back into the program and be mentors themselves. It’s a really rewarding experience!” says Kay Townsend, ACE Mentorship Program (Indiana) president.

Getting involved
ACE seeks mentors who have a little bit of a teaching spirit and the desire to mentor in their own discipline.

“This program would be a lot more beneficial to students if more professionals would be a mentor. You can never have enough mentorship,” says Ramey.

“We would like to expand, but the quantity of mentors holds us back. Schools have interest, but we’re not able to take more on without more mentors,” says Townsend.

If you are interested in getting volunteering as a mentor, contact Kay Townsend at 317.509.3440 or via e-mail at or complete an application here.

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