Ouellet Construction and Upswell Receive Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s 2019 Awards for Excellence for the Cohen Center Renovation

Ouellet and Upswell

David Lawrence, Vice President/Director of Construction Management at Ouellet Construction and Armado Manalo, Strategy and Content Director at Upswell.

David Lawrence accepted the David M. Lawrence Award on behalf of Ouellet Construction, and Armando Manalo accepted the Program Partner Award on behalf of Upswell

About the Awards

Upon completion of the Cohen Center for Interactive Learning in 2004, GMRI initiated the “David M. Lawrence Award”, named after David Lawrence of Ouellet Construction. He received the very first award that year for his exemplary role in overseeing the lab project, and for delivering an extraordinary asset that enables GMRI to impact the world.

Since that time, GMRI has presented awards to the best vendor and program partner each year. The process to select vendors begins with staff nominees based specific criteria, with review and final selection by the management team.

The award criteria are as follows:

  • Vendor/Partner provided extraordinary service or product that has enabled GMRI to make a difference in the world (either directly as a vendor to a program, as a vendor providing organizational support services, or as a partner in accomplishing our mission-related work).
  • Expected important, long-term vendor/partner relationship.
  • Additional unique factors are considered from time to time (e.g., pro bono service as a deciding factor).

The award includes:

  • Annual board/staff dinner invitation to the recipient and appropriate partners.
  • Recognition at the annual winter board/staff dinner prior to recognition of departing board members.  
  • A framed picture of the GMRI lab in a brass plaque, acknowledging their service to GMRI. 

The 2019 GMRI David M. Lawrence Award

GMRI Award

Mike Ouellet and David Lawrence of Ouellet Construction with GMRI staff members.

Ouellet was nominated for the award by GMRI’s Chief Education Officer, Leigh Peake for the Real World, Real Science and LabVenture teams. The education staff nominated Ouellet in recognition of the extraordinary level of service and partnership throughout the recent reconstruction of the Cohen Center for Interactive Learning. 

Leigh Peake said the following about the Ouellet Construction team:

“While it may seem redundant to nominate someone for an award named in their honor, the Ouellet team of David Lawrence and Don Ouellet showed an extraordinary level of service and partnership throughout the reconstruction of the Cohen Center.

Ouellet sat at the difficult intersection of numerous players, priorities, and perspectives. They handled each new demand with grace and whenever we hit a snag they dug in with expertise, offering solutions that the team hadn’t yet considered.”

She spoke highly of Ouellet’s commitment to the project after the launch, saying, 

“Even after the launch of the space they continued to work with us to improve it. They also understood how important it was for us to recycle materials, and waited through our process of getting parts and pieces out to their new homes.”

She added,

“Doing a renovation of that size in the days between close of the 2017-2018 school year and the start of our technology installation and testing is challenging to start. Doing it in the height of the Maine construction season is doubly challenging.

Ouellet was essential to the project coming in on-time and on-budget, and contributed significantly to the team’s ability to essentially “hold onto sanity” throughout the process. Finally, I think this is obviously a longstanding vendor relationship and one we want to hold onto going forward!”

Jeff Bate, Project Manager for Interactive Learning at GMRI said,

“The space looks amazing. During construction, GMRI staff never had to worry about anything that Ouellet was doing. They anticipated future problems and resolved them, and provided solution choices in a systematic way.”

Labventure facility

LabVenture facility at the Cohen Center for Interactive Learning.

Program Partner Award

Upswell Experience Design

Armando Manalo of Upswell accepting the Program Partner Award, alongside GMRI staff members.

Upswell was nominated by GMRI’s Chief Education Officer, Leigh Peake for their experience design for the Real World, Real Science and LabVenture teams. Her nomination was supported by Charissa Kerr and Elijah Miller.

Leigh Peake said the following about Upswell’s dedication to the project,

“Soon after we started, the scope blossomed when we decided to take on the Cohen Center renovation as well as the LabVenture overhaul. Upswell’s tireless dedication to the project at all levels of their organization allowed us to make the most out of this unique and daunting opportunity to reimagine a program that had been running quite successfully for 13 years.

From driving the experience design process, to iterating through countless renderings of the space, to thinking through the complexities of technology integration, they were always willing to go the extra mile whether it was their idea or ours—without a change order, either!

When students hopped off the bus on September 18th, a date that had been set long before, we were ready. And, for months beyond that Upswell kept working to refine the software and hardware so that it could stand up to the delivery of LabVenture to tens of thousands of students for years to come.

As we look forward to improving LabVenture and finding other ways to use the Cohen Center, Upswell continues to play an important role in both designing and implementing interactive experiences to engage our audiences and further our mission.” 

Charissa Kerr said the following about why Upswell should receive the Program Partner Award,

“Upswell’s perseverance and efforts in the Cohen Center project have been amazing. Their communication with us has been timely, friendly and professional.”

A Complementary Collaboration

Both Ouellet Construction and Upswell indicated that they genuinely enjoyed working with each other, and that the collaboration was a productive one.

President of Ouellet Construction, Mike Ouellet said, 

“It is often a challenge to work implement software as part of a construction design, but working with Upswell, the process was seamless.”

Strategy and Content Director at Upswell, Armando Manalo said, 

“It was an amazing collaboration. Ouellet was very receptive to the integration work we were doing, but also brought in a measure of practicality to the project. They listened and made an effort to understand our intent, and worked to help us come up with the best solutions. It was the best experience we’ve had working with a construction company.”

You can check out additonal pictures of the new LabVenture space in our project portfolio, here

Learn more about what it’s like to work with Ouellet Construction.