Designing a future

Jesse Hollett
Posted 4/12/17

ORANGE PARK – Orange Park High’s crack team of teenage engineers have another accolade to add to their paint spackled walls.

The school’s national engineering team won second place in the …

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Designing a future

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Orange Park High’s crack team of teenage engineers have another accolade to add to their paint spackled walls.

The school’s national engineering team won second place in the open space design category last month as part of the 2017 Architecture, Construction and Engineering National Design and Construction Competition.

The annual competition, now in its eleventh year, pits the best and brightest of budding high school architects and engineers against each other for dominance.

The team of eight won for a community park design they proposed. The team’s concept called for transforming the underused Confederate Park south of the Springfield area in Jacksonville into a thriving, sustainable destination with access to bike trails and water resources along Hogan Creek.

“When we were going through our early design process, we wanted to incorporate buildings into the open space,” said Camden Dean, a student member of the national team. “One of our early ideas involved too much of a building and not enough open space.”

Making a decision on what ultimate design path they wanted to follow was the largest challenge this year, “Some people wanted more modern designs, some people wanted more traditional designs. That was one of the big disputes that we had this year,” he said.

The Hogan Creek Community Plaza is designed using recycled materials and solar powered lights, as well as an amphitheater for musical performances.

As part of the competition, students respond to design proposals created by the ACE mentoring organization annually.

ACE studebnts begin these projects in September every school year, but they’re not alone in the task. Inching them along the way are teachers and outside professionals in their fields – two to three of them every year assist in every aspect from the project’s conception to its budgetary and buildout timeline constraints.

“This is a real hands-on type of program where the students get to not just learn but do,” said engineering mentor Joe DeMarco of Orange Park. “Our goal as mentors is to really take them through the phases of the project from initial concept to final design.”

DeMarco and fellow mentors from local industry professional firms meet with students for two hours once a week for 16 weeks. And the work paid off handsomely again this year. Students won a $1,000 cash prize for their participation that will go to their local ACE national affiliate, benefitting the mentoring program.

They had more regional competition this year. This year, there are two new national teams in Northeast Florida, including one organized by home-schoolers. ACE National recommends not doing the same presentation as another team in the region, so before planning began on the project early on in the school year, the students had to coordinate with other teams in the region, including a start up program at Middleburg High.

In the Northeast Florida region alone, ACE National’s affiliate office lists 41 separate mentors to split across five ACE groups.

Orange Park High’s program has seen immense success in the past. Last year, their team took home third best project overall in the nation for their design of “Unity Bridge.” The unique design featured 10 travel lanes with two for public transit and a separate spiral path for walking and biking in Jacksonville’s urban core.

Orange Park’s national team is bolstered by the Clay County Acadamies, which provide each high school with different trade classes. Orange Park High has the engineering academy.

“In regular schools what happens is…they hold the meetings at an architectural firm or an engineering firm,” DeMarco said. “We have the space and the teachers and the environment setup. Thats worked really well for us in Clay County.”

With the competition behind them, the national team members are busy applying for scholarships and colleges as they’re on their way out of high school. The ACE National program gives them a leg up on both college applications and scholarships. ACE National itself provides many partial and full scholarships.

Dean said he now wants to go to college to study aeronautics, but he’s still not decided as to where. He said the program has given him a deeper understanding of what career path to choose, and what to specialize in. It’s something DeMarco agrees with.

“The program offers a lot of exposure to the students of real life careers because they get to walk into a professional office and learn what architechts and engineers do on a daily basis,” DeMarco said.

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