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The American Galvanizers Association (AGA) and American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) have been partnering to educate future specifiers for nearly four years. The latest successful venture in this partnership was the Ascension Design Competition.

Launched at the AIAS FORUM in December 2012, the Ascension program challenged architecture students to design a fully functional adaptable galvanized steel wheelchair ramp. The contest offered $8,000 to the winning design, and was the most successful competition AIAS has hosted to date. Initially, 125 teams from 70 universities registered to compete; however, as the fall semester ramped up, only 20 submissions were received that met all the judging criteria. Based on the difficult and comprehensive program, this is still a great turnout.

Clemson Ascension
Clemson University student Nicklos Tafel's winning design

The jury, made up of persons with varying backgrounds in the design process, met in October to decide the winning design. The jury awarded two designs submitted by both a single student Nicklos Tafel a 4th year student at Clemson University and a team of 1st and 2nd year students from Syracuse University including Jason So, Armand Damari, Cat Fan, and Josh Intorcio.

Now that the ramp design is finalized, the second phase of the Ascension program is implementation, in which AIAS and AGA members will work together to donate ramps to wounded veterans throughout North America. This provides an unprecedented opportunity for future specifiers to get “hands on” experience with hot-dip galvanizing, and also creates a unique networking opportunity between the galvanizer and the students.

In 2014, the AGA and AIAS will continue to work toward our goal of donating one ramp per year in each community where an AGA member and/or AIAS Freedom by Design chapter is located to facilitate accessibility for the brave servicemen and women that risked their lives to preserve our freedom. AGA encourages ALL of our members to be proactive in connecting with a local student group.

Syracuse Ascension
Syracuse University students Jason So, Armand Damari, Cat Fan, and Josh Intorcio's winning design

As of May 2013, AIAS has 50 recognized Freedom by Design chapters, and there are a total of 125 AIAS chapters (including Canada and Puerto Rico) who would likely be happy to participate in the Ascension Program even if they don’t have an organized Freedom by Design chapter. AIAS Freedom by Design chapters are organized to design projects to benefit local citizens with more individual freedom – so the galvanized ramps are a seamless fit. The chapters do the legwork of finding a local person in need of assistance (in this case, a wounded veteran). The students will connect the wounded veteran with local vendors (galvanizers) to provide freedom through their design.

AGA members should be prepared to receive contact from AIAS students looking for assistance in building a ramp. The galvanizer should take the responsibility of finding a local fabricator willing to participate with the goal of donating the ramp to the students. However, AGA members do not need to wait for a student group to contact them. If you are interested in pursuing the installation of a ramp in your community, the AGA can match you with an AIAS chapter to get the ball rolling.

So, what are the next steps to building a pathway for the future through the Ascension program? First, make sure everyone at your company, particularly the gatekeeper (person(s) answering the phone) are aware of the program and know who should receive the student’s calls. If you are contacted by a student, try to get back to them ASAP and work through the process. Second, be proactive – you don’t have to wait for the students to make the first contact. The students will take on the hardest part…finding a local citizen to benefit and installing the ramp. You just need to be willing to initiate contact with the student and then find a fabricator to work with you on donating the materials.

The Ascension program started with unprecedented success. Now it is up to ALL of our members to continue the momentum by donating a ramp in your community. This is a unique opportunity to not only develop a relationship with future specifiers and improve the life of a wounded warrior in your neighborhood, but also can be a building block to your company becoming more active and well known in the community. Get involved with the Ascension program and start building pathways to the future!

If you are interested in learning more about the Ascension program and/or interested in building a ramp with a local AIAS chapter in your area, please contact Marketing Director Melissa Lindsley