ACE Academy class studies Sellwood Bridge

Learn why these students traveled from their school in far outer East Portland to this construction site …

ACE Academy students disembark at the Sellwood Bridge Project site, ready for a tour from the bridge deck.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

On the morning of November 20, a yellow school bus pulled off SE Tacoma Street, and about two dozen high-school-age students piled out at the construction office of the Sellwood Bridge project.

Students from the ACE Academy for Architecture, Construction, and Engineering, donned hard hats and safety vests before being led on a tour of the Sellwood Bridge Project by an engineer from contractor Slayden/Sundt JV.

Students are given an “eagle’s eye view” of the Sellwood Bridge construction site.

The ACE Academy has been involved with the bridge-building project from its inception.

Their work including making models of the west side hillside erosion abatement, and building a model that showed how the bridge would be shifted north. This year, ACE students designed the benches that will grace the bridge’s belvedere overlooks. [To see the “Benches” story, CLICK HERE]

ACE Academy Director Mark Clifford and student Hunter Johnson listen as a project supervisor describes the work going on below the old bridge’s deck. “It’s interesting to see how they’re building the support beams after they’ve constructed the concrete piers,” Johnson said.

“Because of our long-standing relationship with Slayden/Sundt JV, we’re able bring students to the work site for field trips, from time to time,” explained ACE Academy Director Mark Clifford.

“We do this because we’re always trying to expand our students’ understanding of the diversity of occupations within construction,” Clifford told East Portland News.

“Sometimes you think of construction as building a house,” Clifford said. “But actually there are a wide variety of opportunities in the construction field.”

ACE students learn about some of the heavy construction techniques from the professionals working on the Sellwood Bridge Project.

Walking out to about mid-span on the bridge, which was closed to traffic for the day, Clifford introduced Sam Barlow High School senior Kaitlyn Caseday.

“I’m not that interested in hammer and nails,” Caseday said. “My goal is to become a heavy equipment operator. What I learned by coming out to a field trip like this was the relationships among the diverse group of trades at the project; and how everybody works together as a big group.”

Kaitlyn Caseday (center) sees how various trade groups work together to build this large project.

Her experience at ACE mirrors this way of working, Caseday said. “ACE is a good experience for me, because you learn to work together in a group. And I’m learning to work with people who are learning different aspects of engineering and construction.”

As the students began walking back to the east approach of the bridge, Clifford added, “Really, what we’re trying to do is support the commercial trades of all kinds, not only those relating to residential construction, as some people might think.”

The ACE Academy for Architecture, Construction, and Engineering is a charter school partnership involving the Oregon Building Congress and the ?Centennial, Gresham-Barlow, Parkrose, and Reynolds School Districts. The result is a public, tuition-free charter high school.

For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE.

Students at the ACE Academy say they benefit from visiting working construction sites, such as the Sellwood Bridge Project.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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