DCI’s Austin office joined the founding team of the Architects Construction Engineering (ACE) Mentors Program affiliate in Austin in 2016. As part of its contribution of time and resources to the chapter’s program and scholarship fund, DCI participated in educational efforts to encourage area high school students to pursue A/E/C professions.
Associate Shane Tanner walked students through the complex structural attributes of what will be Austin’s tallest building, The Independent. Project Engineer Elizabeth Depwe currently serves on ACE’s associate board for mentor and student recruitment. Two additional Project Engineers, Arizona Dabrusin and Jessica Martinez, acted as mentors to 46 students enrolled in the 12-week design competition. Forming eight teams, the students were tasked with designing a mixed-use high-rise for an urban community.
Students learned basic information about the various disciplines involved in the A/E/C industries: architecture, mechanical engineering, landscape engineering, civil engineering, structural engineering, construction, and construction management. Field trips were arranged to visit various construction sites as well as the engineering and architecture schools at the University of Texas at Austin. Classroom assignments for the design competition involved creating massing models through SketchUp for their hypothetical mixed-use high-rise; drafting floor plans; developing construction logistic plans; preparing civil site plans; setting column grids; cost estimating; and testing their structural model designs to resist lateral loads.
The higher level, hands-on experience fully engaged the students ̶ and thoroughly impressed the mentors.
“My favorite activity I worked on with the students was the one where they focused on creating a beam made of pre-cut and glued together foam core pieces which could resist the heaviest weight,” said Jessica. “We showed the students typical beam shapes and explained different ways they could reinforce the beam along its length, then let them go to work within a set timeframe.”
When time was up, all the teams took turns testing the strength of their beams. This was done by hanging a bucket at the middle of the beam, then adding water until the beam failed.
“I personally found the structural engineering activities to be the most interesting for the students because they could see the impact of their designs and evaluate the differences of approach from other groups,” she said.
Jessica and Arizona personally understand the value of supporting organizations such as ACE Mentors. There wasn’t a STEM program like this when Jessica was in high school to expose her to the different career paths available to a student with her technical interests. Arizona volunteered for a similar organization during college and learned about ACE Mentors from a previous participant, Elizabeth Depwe.
“I’m always interested in encouraging students to consider a future in engineering, especially in the structural engineering industry,” he said.
In Austin, 31 industry professionals representing 27 firms participated as mentors. The program totaled 46 students from 11 high schools.
Starting an ACE Mentors group has stirred interest from other staff members as well. DCI+BCE Project Engineer Audrey Bentz from the Bozeman, Montana office was a previous ACE Mentors volunteer in Seattle.
“I really appreciated how the program directly connects the students with professionals,” Audrey said. “It provides them with invaluable exposure to the industry and its opportunities. When I moved to Montana I learned that there is no ACE program here, so I am happy to do what I can to bring one to our community.”
About the Author
Rose Bechtold, Communications Specialist | Rose comes from a journalism and technical writing background. She is in her element while in research mode and naturally immerses herself in expert knowledge by interviewing staff members about new subjects. In her spare time, Rose practices plein-air sketching of buildings and random scenes around town.