MTSU's ACE Camp Has Future Builders and Designers

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ACE Camp attendee Darrien McFarland, left, of Birmingham, Ala., makes concrete while fellow camper Kenroy Stewart of Atlanta, Ga., watches MTSU School of Concrete and Construction chair Heather Brown stir Stewart's batch of concrete mix during a Monday (July 11) scheduled activity in the Voorhies Engineering Technology Building. McFarland, 15, will be a sophomore at Mayfield High School in Birmingham this fall. Stewart, 17, is a rising senior at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Atlanta. The camp promotes architectural, construction and engineering, and ends July 16. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)
MTSU ACE Camp 2016 students listen as Andy Van Pelt, far right, of Nashville-based Clark Construction makes a presentation at a job trailer site during the group's field trip to Nashville July 14. (Photo by Tom Gormley)
Before having dinner July 13, high school MTSU ACE Summer Camp attendees are shown with university students and Tom Gormley, far right second row, an associate professor in the School of Concrete and Construction. The 17 articipants came from across the South. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

One of 17 high school students attending the MTSU ACE Summer Camp, Dylan Akers obtains his love for building and design through DNA.

His father, Chris Akers, is a civil engineer with Littlejohn Engineering Associates, an S&ME company, in Nashville. And the passion flowed to Dylan, 17, a rising Franklin (Tennessee) High School senior.

The ACE Mentor Program camp, which is free to participants and the only one in the U.S. this summer, brings students from Atlanta, Birmingham, Brentwood, Nashville, Murfreesboro and elsewhere to learn about architecture, construction and engineering -- hence the ACE acronym.


To view video about the camp, visit

"It's a high school mentoring program that encourages students through mentoring and scholarships to pursue careers in these disciplines," said Tom Gormley, associate professor in the MTSU School of Concrete and Construction.


Led locally by Jack Tipton and Dan Ryan and facilitated by MTSU faculty, ACE mentors, whose companies helped pay half of the students' camp fees, hope their recruiting efforts attract the teenagers after finishing college. Tipton is director of ACE regional programs for the Southeast and Ryan is ACE Mentor Program of Greater Nashville vice president.

Dylan Akers attended the camp as a junior, made closing remarks during the ACE banquet, was interviewed for an ACE video and received a $2,000 scholarship. As part of a structural team in 2015, Akers' energy overflowed as he spoke.

"(Team members and ACE mentors) said to me, 'We love your passion,'" Akers said.

"We've gone to construction sites, we've been all around campus and we've had several different teachers and mentors from different firms this year," Akers added. "The fact ACE is offering this for kids my age is phenomenal. We have kids coming together, all for the love of the field."

Reagan Lannom, 15, a rising 10th-grader at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, called the camp "eye-opening."

"I would recommend this to a lot of people," added Lannom, who plans to join Central's ACE program. "I wasn't exactly sure wheat architecture is about, but it showed me that multiple things can come together."

Reginald Stuart, 15, a rising Siegel High School sophomore who is a member of the Stars' band and track and field teams, "enjoys seeing how buildings work and their design."

"There has been a whole lot of teamwork," he added. "I like the communication. That's the way it should be."

Janis Brickey, associate professor in the MTSU Department of Human Sciences, said one of the key components "helps them understand the importance of collaboration."

Attendees received the MTSU dorm, dining and Campus Recreation Center experience and they made field trips to downtown Murfreesboro and to Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

At MTSU, they made concrete, designed an architectural model and participated in a mock bid and other hands-on activities.

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