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High School Students Dazzle with Solution for Water Resource Management, to Win CIRT’s National Design & Construction Competition

In an unprecedented “virtual” final round program, presentations were made before a remote audience of over 130 and five judges to vie for top honors in the 2020 CIRT National Design & Construction Competition. ACE Mentor Program of Greater New York/Team 30 emerged to take home top honors as National Champions in the fourteenth annual CIRT competition. The three finalist had survived a grueling preliminary round that included 52 entries, from 24 ACE Mentor Program of America Affiliates, with over 400 students from 170 high schools, and 238 professionals (mentors) involved. Due to the pandemic and shutdowns the presentation round was conducted remotely using ZOOM group meeting platform before a distinguished panel of judges headed by Thomas F. Gilbane, Jr. (Gilbane Building Company), that included: Tom Reilly (Turner Construction Co.), Lisa Chong, Associate, PE (Thornton-Tomasetti), Scott Seltz (Publisher, ENR), and Jenni Mushynski (Chicago Architecture Center).

The order of finish for the competition was:

  • First Place and a prize of $5,000 went to: ACE Mentor Program of Greater New York (Team 30) for their Water Resource Management & Preservation entry: “the belt;”  
  • Second Place and a prize of $3,000 went to: and ACE Mentor Program of Illinois (Chicago Team 5): for their Gastronomic Center entry: “Food Bank;” and
  • Third Place and a prize of $2,000 went to: ACE Mentor Program of Greater Washington, DC Metro Area (Washington Liberty H.S. Team) for their National Pavilion entry: “The National Star.”

It took the judges two ballots to ultimately determine a winner after carefully analyzing the presentations as well as the underlying entry’s design/construction approaches within the project’s objectives. In the end, the judges balanced the outcome on the basis of the two major elements: quality of presentation and competence of the overall entry. The winning entry exhibited extraordinary versatility and responsiveness to the criteria of the water management challenge, by incorporating three major elements in their solution/response: (i) flood and sea rise mitigation, (ii) combined sewer and storm surge water overflow containment, and (iii) use of tidal flow to generate energy. The cost, spread over 15 years, was estimated at $12.7 billion; compared to the greater NYC damage from Hurricane Sandy that was estimated at $19 billion in 2012.

Six other teams were also recognized in the 2020 competition as either First Runner-Up($1,000 prize) or Second Runner-Up ($500 prize) in each of the three different design challenges or options. Among this elite group were:

National Pavilion Challenge (9 entries):

st Runner-Up: ACE Mentor of Illinois/Chicago Team 9;
2nd Runner-Up: 
ACE Mentor Program of Greater Phoenix Area/Team P3;

Water Resource Management & Preservation Challenge (18 entries):

1st Runner-Up: ACE Mentor of Greater Philadelphia/Team 10;
2nd Runner-Up: ACE Mentor of Washington, Inc./Seattle Technology Team;

Gastronomic Center Challenge (25 entries):

st Runner-Up: ACE Mentor of Illinois/Chicago Team 1;
2nd Runner-Up: ACE Mentor Program of Illinois/Chicago Team 6

CIRT National Design & Construction Competition is a collaborative effort with the ACE Mentor Program of America and the Chicago Architecture Center.

 In partnership with


Courtesy of and Special Thanks to Foundation Digital Media

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