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2017 ACE Year-end Ceremony Celebrates Student Achievements

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Project Manager Josh Braby has been actively involved in the ACE Mentor Program for more than a decade. His passion for both the construction industry and the ACE program make him a successful mentor and board member. Josh recaps Central Iowa’s ACE year-end ceremony and discusses plans for the Tiny Home team to build and donate their tiny home design this summer. 

by Josh Braby

2017 ACE of Central Iowa Team Ankeny

Above: Most of Team Ankeny's mentors and students. Photo credit: Eric Salmon, all images from the event may be viewed at Salmon Photography

The ACE Mentor Program of Central Iowa wrapped up their 12th year with a year-end ceremony at the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny last month. The event was held to recognize the students’ achievements and announce recipients of the five ACE Central Iowa scholarships awarded to ACE students. There were six teams from the Des Moines metro this year, including a National Competition team and a Tiny House team.

The 2016-2017 program participants were asked to design, engineer and prepare construction schedules and estimates for a seasonal rental facility on the Principal River Walk located in downtown Des Moines. What to do with the river in the downtown metro has been a big topic of discussion with city leaders over the past few years and it was fun to see how the students thought the river could be utilized to promote an active hot spot for the downtown community.

Above: Team Ankeny discuss their project with attendees. Photo credit: Eric Salmon, all images from the event may be viewed at Salmon Photography

Students were excited to showcase their work and receive feedback from industry professionals at the open exhibit style event. They prepared presentation boards, videos and other visual tools to showcase their design, engineering calculations, budgets and more. With a little over 300 people in attendance, they had plenty of opportunity to discuss their final projects with parents, mentors, teachers, industry professionals and others interested in the construction industry and the topic of the river in Downtown.

Neumann Brothers Project Engineer Sean Sample joined us as a mentor for the ACE program again this year. He said “It was a lot of fun helping the kids work through the process. They were engaged with the project and their excitement grew as it all came together. It was a great experience.” I echo Sean’s statement and I know the other mentors, who help make the program so successful, would as well. We are grateful to see how engaged and talented the students throughout the metro are.

Above: Members of the Tiny Home team. Photo credit: Eric Salmon, all images from the event may be viewed at Salmon Photography

In addition to the primary project, this year we challenged 8 students from Team Northeast to work on a “Tiny Home” project. For years we’ve tried to figure out a way to bring hands-on construction experience to ACE students and this year we launched our pilot “Tiny Home” project. The students have been working to design an 8’ X 12’ tiny home with myself and other local mentors.  

The criteria for the tiny home included durable finishes, a strict 8’x12’ size limit and the interior had to have cabinet space, storage space, a bed and a dining area big enough for guests and/or small single families. 

The Tiny Home team worked closely with JOPPA to determine the needs of the homeless within our community and unveiled their design at the year-end program. They also shared the exciting news about their plan to construct the tiny home in June during a week-long camp. They’ll work with industry professionals to build the home and will then donate the house to Joppa Outreach for use in their planned tiny home community.

I am honored to have worked with such a great group of students on the tiny home project this year and I have the privilege of presenting the curriculum and final product at the ACE National Convention in Kansas City this summer.

In the history of ACE, only one other structure has been designed and built by ACE students and it’s located right here in Iowa! That structure was built by the newly founded ACE Eastern Iowa affiliate in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area. The central Iowa students were excited to share the news with attendees that their project will be the second structure designed and actually built by ACE students. They’re continuing to meet each week to fine-tune details and finishes for the build.

I learn from these students every year and the enthusiasm and energy they bring to their projects is inspiring. I’m so proud of what they have accomplished and I am honored to be a part of such a fantastic program. We’re all looking forward to next year and excited about the future of the AEC industry.


The ACE Mentor Program is a nationwide program that introduces high school students to careers in architecture, engineering and construction (A/E/C) and connects them with local volunteer mentors in the industry. ACE began in New York in 1993 with 17 local firms volunteering their time and resources to help 90 high school students gain real-world experience in the three fields. Today ACE spans over 200 cities across the country, including three programs in Iowa.