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ACE and Dieruff HS Design & Build Construction Company

In my last blog, volunteering with the ACE Mentor Program, I shared my experiences with working with high school students under the umbrella of the ACE Mentor Program. I had the privilege of working students who created some awesome Architectural – Contractor – Engineering projects – with the tools that the school district afforded them…but something was missing…the appropriate software to get the job done efficiently (AutoCAD). It was at that time that I offered to volunteer my time to the students at Dieruff high School (Allentown, PA) and provide AutoCAD instruction to the students…thus, the ‘CADD Club’ was founded in the spring of 2012.


The students in the program met with me on a weekly basis, for an hour or so after school, and learned the basics of drafting with AutoCAD. The program was a huge success with over 10 students participating in the first year. The Louis E. Dieruff High School Alumni Association supported my efforts by providing after-school snacks for the students (pizza and soda!)


Since many of the students were now proficient in the basic skills in computer drafting, they were ready to move on to bigger and better things! The same alumni association – who assisted by keeping the students bellies full – founded the Dieruff Design-Build Construction Company in the fall of 2013.


Seeing this as yet another opportunity to ‘give a little back’ to my alma mater, I volunteered to lead this club. Its goal was to expose the students to the methods and techniques used by architects, engineers and contractors in completing a typical construction project. They began by defining the scope of work and taking a concept to design, procurement of materials, and finally the actual ‘hands-on’ construction of the project. They were learning how to use the tools of the construction industry.

We now needed a project! With timing being everything, the DDBCC offered to assist the schools theater department in the design and construction of the set for their upcoming spring musical ‘AIDA’. After a short kick-off meeting with the theater department staff, a picture of the proposed set was offered and the clock started ticking away!

Aida Set

The students were guided through the design process and drafted the floor plan for the set. The adjusted the size of the set numerous times to ensure that it would fit on the stage and still meet the needs of the theater department and their cast, and most importantly, be completely visible from every seat in the auditorium! Some of details for the various components were drafted at larger scales for use as the ‘building instructions’.

The plans now completed, it was time to develop a material list and procure the materials needed. With the assistance of a few other LED alumni, the materials were delivered and construction started…and continued through the spring of 2013. The students were taught safety procedures related to working on a job site, followed by instruction of how to use many of the power tools needed during the building process.

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Many of the materials were donated by alumni and local contractors and building materials suppliers. The various components were ‘rough framed’ in manageable sections in the back-stage area.

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Now completed, the ‘club’ moved the components onto the stage and completed the installation.Many of the club members assisted in the final decorations…


… and the show opened on schedule with the first performance on April 25, 2013.


This project turned out to involve much more than anyone expected, yet it was a huge success, due in part to the dedication of all the volunteers, who offered their time, experience and patience. They all came together and worked as a team to mentor the students in this endeavor.

Looking back, a valuable lesson was taught by the students…they do want to learn and experience new things. Unfortunately, many of these types of opportunities and experiences are not available to the students due to budget cuts…unless we – the public & the professionals – get involved and make it happen…

Ask yourself…what do I have to offer? …and what am I willing to do to make a difference in these students’ lives? When you arrive at an answer…consider volunteering a little of your free time…it will make a world of difference to those that you can reach out to!