Being part of the Ace Mentor Program

The ACE Mentor Program is an organization where local high school students are grouped into project teams with professional volunteers from the architecture, construction, and engineering community. The goal is for students to gain an idea of what it means to be a part of the building industry in a fun and interesting way. Our Seattle office has been involved in this program for several years and each year has brought with it new opportunities to build relationships with students and to get to work with other professionals engaged in their communities.

Each year we are presented a new project designed to peak student (and mentor) interest. Past projects include designing a museum on one of Seattle’s piers, proposing for a new basketball and hockey arena, and working with the students to design their dream high school. These are exciting programs for the students and often offer a chance for the mentors to explore a project type they’ve never been a part of.


As structural engineers, we try to come up with cool ways to teach some engineering concepts throughout the year. In other words, we get to do a bunch of atypical engineering projects!  We’ve done everything from trying to build the tallest spaghetti and marshmallow towers to discussing efficient structural configurations to standing on 2x4s to talk about strong axis / weak axis and deflection. We also built models to show the differences between different lateral systems using foamy blocks to demonstrate internal member stresses and played with Jenga blocks to help nail down the difference between plan, section, and elevation.



With these cool project types we’ve also had the opportunity to get the teams into a couple of behind the scenes tours. We got to visit Seattle’s Key Arena while working on our basketball / hockey stadium project and interview some of the staff.

At the end of it all, we get to proudly stand back and watch as the students give a solo presentation to their parents and peers on everything they’ve worked on over the past year. It’s rewarding to see students get excited about all of these cool ideas and start working towards one day being a part of the industry. It’s also a good reminder to us professionals of why we got into these careers in the first place—because it really is an exciting and interesting field! We feel reenergized!

If this program peaks your interest, check it out at www.acementor.org.

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