Berkley High School students win ACE Michigan design competition

SOUTHFIELD—A team of high school students from Berkley High School was recognized as the winner of the 2018-19 ACE Mentor Program of Michigan in an honors dinner Tuesday night at Lawrence Technological University.

The ACE Mentor – Michigan (an acronym for Architecture, Construction, Engineering) program teaches high school students about the wide range of career options open to young people in the building design and construction industry, and lets them work alongside professional mentors to plan, design, and go through the preconstruction process associated with a building project.

Students in the ACE Mentor program attend 17 biweekly sessions presented by professional mentors covering site design, architecture, landscaping, geotechnical sciences, civil engineering, structural engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, project estimating, and the skilled trades. The program ends with a presentation where the students show their design for a hypothetical building—in the case of Michigan this year, a 2,800-square-foot high school student activities center.

“There’s no right or wrong answers, it’s a matter of them applying the criteria they’re given and telling us why they did it that way,” said ACE Mentor Michigan board chair Vince DeLeonardis, president and CEO of Auch Construction, a Pontiac construction services firm. “These activities align with what we do in our professional lives every day. And the proposals the students came up with were just astounding.”

ACE Mentor was founded in 1995 by Charles H. Thornton, founding principal and chairman of Thornton-Tomasetti, a 550-person firm providing engineering services based in New York. There are now ACE affiliates in 40 states and Washington, D.C. The Michigan program got off the ground in 2005. Today, it involves Avondale, Berkley, Bishop Foley, Plymouth, and Pontiac high schools.

Karl Daubmann, dean of LTU’s College of Architecture, joined the ACE Michigan board last year. The board includes leaders from the construction, architecture, and engineering industries in Michigan. Daubmann said the goal of the board for 2019-20 is to expand the number of participating high schools and students.

The Berkley winners received iPads and trophies for their achievement. Three high school seniors from among all the teams also were presented a total of $7,000 in college scholarships.

Tuesday night’s event also featured presentations from mentor Kevin Irrer, president of CI Contracting Inc., a Brighton underground utility contracting firm, and ACE supporter Craig Wolanin, corporate development director of Frank Rewold & Son Inc., a Rochester construction manager and general contractor.

In his keynote, Wolanin praised LTU’s “Possible is Everything” advertising slogan, and said the ACE students “have helped our mentors rediscover their ‘why.’ Sometimes we forget the energy and passion we had when we were young. Energy and enthusiasm is exactly what the construction and design industry needs.”

Offering the students career advice, Wolanin said: “Fit supersedes everything. Where you fit is where you belong.” At the same time, he cautioned, “Embrace the grind. Nothing is going to come easy. If you do that, possible really is everything.”

More about ACE Michigan, including student and mentor registration, at

Lawrence Technological University,, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 15 percent of universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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