The Next Generation in Construction: A Spotlight on 6 Young Industry Innovators  

young professionals share insight into future of construction

Construction is a vibrant industry full of innovative and talented professionals. But its future relies on the minds and passions of our youngest generations.  

At Autodesk, part of our mission is to create a better industry for today and tomorrow. Through our Make It Real program, we encourage young people to engage with their communities by applying the design thinking process to real problems related to construction and the built environment. Two key initiatives include: 

  • “Make It Modular” Scholarship Award: We challenged high school students to upcycle materials and reuse waste in the design of a structure that meets a need in their community and could also be repurposed in the future. Winners of the contest earned scholarship prizes totaling $50,000 to support educational expenses such as tuition, books, room and board, transportation, and childcare. 
  • Building Changemakers Microgrant Application: This $500 grant is intended for students ages 17-22 in the U.S. who are transitioning from high school into an apprenticeship or additional vocational training in the building trades. It may be used to cover expenses to support training such as tuition, books, safety equipment, uniforms, lab fees, transportation, certification fees, or childcare. This program will run until November 7, 2022, or until the $50,000 in funds allotted for this program run out. 

So far, we’ve had some incredible winners for our scholarship award and microgrants. We recently had the opportunity to speak to six of our winners to discuss more about what inspired them to enter the awards or challenge, and what’s needed to build a better future for the industry. Read their insights, below!  

make it modular winners autodesk

In response to the Make It Modular scholarship award contest, student innovators applied design thinking skills and an engineering mindset in addressing issues like affordable housing, healthier learning environments, and Covid-era community spaces. 

“Make It Modular” Scholarship Award Winners 

Sophia DiLoreto, Senior, Wachusett Regional High School, Massachusetts 

Headshot_Sophia DiLoretoTell us about your submission. What inspired you to enter the design challenge?  

My submission was for a design challenge in which a shipping container was to be repurposed into something greater. I decided to design an outdoor classroom that could be sent out after a natural disaster, to be used during construction, etc. What inspired me to get involved in the design challenge was the challenge itself. Designing an entire classroom made out of a shipping container is a grand feat. I wanted to push my creative ability and produce something I was truly proud of. Looking back, I realize that my design has the potential to be used in the real world. 

What impact do you think the scholarship will have on your future? 

I believe that this scholarship has given me a huge step into the computer drafting and design field. If students are looking for a good resume builder, the Instructables challenges are great for it! A prize or placement is not necessary for colleges or future employers to see dedication and creativeness. Not only that, but this scholarship has given me confidence in my creations. After putting hours and days into my design, I started to see the things I was capable of.  

Why are you inspired to pursue a career in the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry? What impact do you hope to make in the industry? 

I am interested in pursuing a career in the engineering industry because I feel as though it has the greatest impact on communities and people’s personal lives. I’ve always found the engineering field fascinating as there are so many different opportunities to try. I hope to bring new ideas and processes into the engineering field. I believe the engineering industry has the chance to make people’s everyday lives a little bit easier and make their quality of life better. 

Michael Hidalgo of Florida, Freshman, Miami Dade College, Florida 

Headshot_Michael HidalgoTell us about your submission. What inspired you to enter the design challenge? 

From the moment I learned about the challenge, I knew I wanted to enter. I was presented with a platform to share my solution to the increasing homeless population and cost of living. On my way to school, I would notice how the homeless would live by an intersection for days or weeks at a time before they would find something more stable. Next to this intersection, there’s also a large parking lot that is never at capacity. I thought it would be effective to create inexpensive self-sustained modular home units that could be placed and relocated where needed. That was easier said than done. The research took time, and it was often discouraging.  

The more I researched the more hurdles I encountered and that required me to research even more. I wanted this project to be feasible and creating a completely self-sustaining home out of a 20’ x 8’ x 9’6” container without spending too much money was difficult. Everything from space to plumbing to electricity to cooling to withstanding the elements was a challenge. Allocating my time between the design challenge and my other responsibilities was difficult. I spent almost a month gathering information and creating different potential plans before I started designing. Once I started designing, I very quickly realized I had no idea how to digitize my ideas. I had to do more research and learn how to use the software.  

The entire process was a back-and-forth between an idea popping up, researching the viability, and figuring out how to put it into my digital model. This was all very frustrating because there was a challenge at every step, but I had to overcome them. Exceptionally frustrating were the renderings, I collectively spent over a week with my computer on day and night rendering, and it was heartbreaking when my computer would crash, or I’d notice I should make a change and must redo a series of renders.  

Creating the physical prototype was straightforward after the digital model had been completed but it posed some challenges because I hadn’t done anything like it. I knew a 3D printer would make the entire process much easier, but I didn’t have access to one, so I made the best of what I had. Almost everything I did on the physical model was an application of the basic principles I had learned in my art classes. Scoring cardstock was an example that allowed me to create the exterior walls. Everything took much longer than I had anticipated, both for the physical and digital models.  

If I were to give advice, it would be to start early and don’t get discouraged because you can do it even though it may not initially seem like it. 

What impact do you think the scholarship will have on your future?  

The Autodesk Construction Solutions Scholarship Award has given me hope. Since completing my entry, I’ve enrolled in a two-year community college because of the high cost of universities. Now that I’ve been awarded the scholarship, the ability to use it for housing has freed me to explore state universities across Florida and possibly out of state. However, the most valuable thing this scholarship has provided me is hope. I had never thought I could earn a $10,000 scholarship. This whole experience has come as a shock to me and has encouraged me to continue pushing myself. 

Why are you inspired to pursue a career in the AEC industry? What impact do you hope to make in the industry? 

From a young age, I’ve always wondered how tall buildings, highway overpasses, and bridges are designed and built. I always had a curiosity, but I didn’t necessarily see it as a career path. It took me a while to learn that civil engineering was what I wanted to study. I didn’t have any college graduates in my family, nor did I know any engineers. Through research, clubs, and job shadowing that connected me with people in the industry, I was able to solidify this was the industry I wanted to be in. 

In our country, our infrastructure is aging even though we continue increasing our reliance on them. Infrastructure is falling into disrepair and instead of preventing what we have from deteriorating, we only react once it is too late. In the AEC industry, I hope to implement ways to save our current infrastructure and create a more resilient and robust future. 

I first learned about the Make It Modular design challenge through the ACE Mentor Program, a club that I was a part of during high school. I thought that this design challenge would be a great way to practice the many skills that I picked up from ACE Club and my school courses.  

Jack DeBaugh of Maryland, Freshman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts  

Headshot - Jack DeBaughTell us about your submission. What inspired you to enter the design challenge? 

When initially brainstorming ideas for my submission, I knew that I wanted to make something that would better my local community. A unique feature of the town that I live in is that there is a paved trail that runs through it which many bikers, walkers, and runners use. My family and I, like many others, use the trail every day. When thinking of ideas for what amenities would be provided, my mind gravitated towards the bike shop and small restaurants located on one section of the trail. It was then that I realized that I could combine both a bike repair shop and cafe into one building. And from there on I was able to add other features such as a bike repair station and playground to further make my design a congregation area for my community. By researching environmentally friendly building materials and building methods I was able to ensure that Rest and Ride’s creation would have a minimal negative impact on the surrounding environment.  

What impact do you think the scholarship will have on your future? 

The scholarship will have a great impact on my future. It will help to pay for over a year of my college expenses. And with more expenses taken care of, I can devote more time towards pursuing extracurriculars, applying for internships, and other activities that will ultimately prepare me for a successful career. 

Why are you inspired to pursue a career in the AEC industry? What impact do you hope to make in the industry? 

I am aspiring to pursue a career in the AEC industry because I love to make things. From taking Project Lead The Way courses at my high school, being a member of ACE Mentor Program club, and from personal hobbies including 3D printing, DIY projects, and bike repairs, I have learned that I want to have a mechanical-engineering focused career. No matter what industry I eventually find myself in, I hope to invent new technologies/products and patent them, as well as improve existing designs.  

Building Changemakers Microgrant Winners 

Jared Costlychong, Senior, Dearborn STEM Academy, Massachusetts; Building Changemakers Microgrant winner 

Headshot_Jared CostlychongWhat are some problems that the building industry is facing right now? 

The industry is in dire need of more people of color and women to enter the trades. There is a gap of information that is being broadcasted to those in the younger generation to know about the trades and the benefits. Trades are often seen as a backup plan instead of a pathway to success. 

How can you help build a better future through your work in the trades? 

My goal is to become an electrician and come back to my high school at Dearborn STEM Academy and promote the industry through its guest speakers’ series, or other career exploration opportunities. If I did not participate in these activities, I myself would not have been exposed to the industry. 

What do you need right now to get started? Or, how will you use the microgrant funds? 

I will use the funds to help purchase a computer in order for me to be successful in my training. 

Rilee Irby, Senior, Olathe North High School – Olathe Advanced Technical Center, Kansas; Building Changemakers Microgrant winner 

Headshot_Rilee IrbyWhat are some problems that the building industry is facing right now? 

The lack of non-traditional employees. For example, the lack of diversity when it comes to females in this industry. When you think of construction, most of the time you think of an industry dominated by males. Why though? Females are just as capable of completing a job to the same standards, if not better than most men. 

How can you help build a better future through your work in the trades? 

I will show great leadership through my passion to continue to perfect my skills. 

What do you need right now to get started? Or, how will you use the microgrant funds? 

Right now, as a high school senior, I am using the funds to purchase equipment to further my construction abilities.  

Connor Jasper, Senior, Olathe South High School, Kansas; Building Changemakers Microgrant winner 

Headshot_Connor JasperWhat are some problems that the building industry is facing right now? 

Reliable workers. People who show up every day on time, ready to work. 

How can you help build a better future through your work in the trades? 

By taking pride in my work and inspiring and leading others to do the same. 

What do you need right now to get started? Or, how will you use the microgrant funds? 

The only thing I need is a work ethic, experience, and training. 

Kellyanne Mahoney