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Building Confidence Through the ACE Program

Building models to building houses. From design to construction to project completion, students get real-world experience and hands-on learning through our District’s ACE program.

ACE, also known as Architecture, Construction, and Engineering, offers numerous classes for students who want to explore a career in these areas. 

Students work on building a deck

Twelve years ago the ACE classes in our District were discontinued. However, the program has been reestablished due to interest and industry demand, providing exposure to additional career pathways for students. This is the first year that all three of our comprehensive high schools are offering ACE classes.

ACE classes allow students to explore courses and career pathways that vary from architecture, interior design, mechanical engineering, construction and construction management, to materials processing and industrial technology, just to name a few. 

According to ACE instructor John Reynolds, a key part of ACE programs is building confidence. A student can come into the course as a novice to the field and leave with tangible experience.

“It’s an empowering feeling," said Reynolds. 

Through the classes, students have the chance to work on projects from the design phase to actual construction. Students participate in both lab work and job-site experience. Students will also have the opportunity to go on field trips and hear from guest speakers that help bring real-life, field experiences to the students. 

Students and teachers work on building a shed in North Liberty“Even if you’re not sure it’s something that you’re necessarily interested in, I think it's a good experience for kids to have that break in the school day to go and use your hands,” said student Annika Harvey. “For me, this has helped me realize that I really love this but I am more detail-oriented and I also like more of the smaller skill and creativity so I like taking the skills that I learn and putting them into my own creative projects.”

The first priority of all ACE classes is to keep students safe. From there, the classes will focus on skills and techniques.

“Safety is number one,” said Reynolds. “Number two is making sure the student is enjoying themselves, and number three is making sure the students are getting quality information and experience.”

The ACE program offers a course pathway so students interested in a career in the ACE field can go to Kirkwood Community College or a four-year college with some prior experience. For those that are not interested in pursuing a college education, ACE classes provide a starting point so students can enter the workforce with some established skills and knowledge.

“At the very least, if you take some ACE classes, you’ll be able to function and maintain your own home,” said Reynolds.

Students measure for construction

Last year, students in the ACE program had the opportunity to build a deck on a home in Iowa City, construct a storage shed for the City of North Liberty’s Penn Meadows baseball facility, and construct the first floor of a home in North Liberty.

Next year, there will be a new, year-long course implemented into the curriculum. This course will focus on building an actual house from start to finish, not only in a lab environment. Students from all three high schools will be able to enroll in this class and will be working with the professionals and contractors that are involved. 

“[Taking ACE classes] has clarified things for me,” said Harvey. “I love the hands-on. I love being able to just go and do it and what we learn there is applicable immediately in my life.”