Cynthia Stong, a member of ASME since 1989, is an engineering project manager at the Boeing Co. in Mesa, AZ. An employee at the company for nearly 30 years, Stong joined Boeing in 1980 as an engineering aide, finished her mechanical engineering degree from Seattle University in 1989, and has since worked in a variety of departments at the company, including the propulsion, weights, customer service, interiors design, and program management divisions. Currently, she works in project management — dividing her time between the Enterprise Knowledge Management and the Lean Manufacturing and Employee Involvement groups. Stong has been chair of the Arizona section for three years and had previously served as chair of the North Puget Sound Section in Washington state. In addition, she is a former vice president of ASME’s Board on Professional Development, a member of various task force groups and the current leader of the society’s Students and Early Career Engineer Task Force. For the past several years, she has also been the chief judge advisor for the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) program. Stong has been a FIRST volunteer for more than 10 years, primarily as a judge for FIRST Robotics Competition events.
What’s inside your engineer’s notebook?
My notebook contains lists. Lots of lists. I do project management in my current position at Boeing, and I'm juggling many projects. I mentor a touch labor group. I have a work improvement project. Plus, I have miscellaneous things on my list for my volunteer work, such as the ASME task force I'm leading. And then I have lists for home projects and weekend trips with family.
Whose notebook would you most like to peek into? Why?
I'd like to see Dean Kamen's notebook. Dean is not only the founder of FIRST Robotics. He invented the Segway, the iBOT wheelchair, a sterling engine water purification system, a portable dialysis machine, an insulin pump, and much more. Each of these inventions helps someone — including people I know. To me that is truly engineering: helping make the world a better place.
How and when did you know you wanted to become an engineer?
I've loved math since I can remember. I remember in high school during my senior year having to take the city bus to my nearby community college to take calculus because the high school didn't offer it. I wasn't sure what I wanted to be at that point — maybe go into biology or biomed. During my first year of college, I moved to Washington state and got a job at Boeing. I had two years of basic studies and was given an engineering aide position. At that point I was hooked — on both airplanes and getting my engineering degree. It took me eight years of part-time school to finish, but it was well worth it.
What's the most exciting project you've ever worked on?
I've worked on many exciting project during my almost 30 years at Boeing. Some of my favorite projects were working with airline customers after they placed their orders for 777s. I would get to travel to see them — to Rome, Israel, Amsterdam, Germany, Singapore — or they would come see us. I kept them up to date on technical issues and schedules. The most exciting project was Boeing's Internet system for airplanes. We take Internet in our homes and at work for granted, but think about a system that keeps you linked in even over the oceans. Boeing is not still in that commercial business, but we blazed the trail for others who now offer it.
What do you think you’d be doing if you hadn’t become an engineer?
If I weren’t an engineer, I think I would be teaching — probably math! I really enjoy inspiring young people, especially women, to explore math, science, engineering and technology. The possibilities are endless for anyone who studies in those fields. I like stretching their minds to what they could invent or who they could help.
Cynthia Stong has been a volunteer with the FIRST Robotics Competition for more than a decade, and is now the program’s chief judge advisor.
What’s your favorite hobby or activity when you’re not working?
My favorite thing is hanging out with my grandkids and my family. I also love to volunteer. My husband (ASME member Fred Stong) and I volunteer many, many hours with FIRST robotics — judging and reffing. I am the chair of my local ASME section. I am on the board for my local children's museum and chamber of commerce. My volunteer work with FIRST is so inspiring. I get to see first-hand how exposure to science and technology can change a student's life. I want to be that inspiration to my grandkids as well.
Was there a book or a movie that piqued your interest in science or engineering?
I loved science fiction as a kid. I remember going to the library during summer break from school and checking out our limit of books with each visit. I'd devour Ray Bradbury stories, along with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or a James Michener book. I loved reading.
Who are your heroes, either within the engineering profession or in the rest of your life?
My dad was my inspiration. I remember growing up hanging out with him in the garage, watching and helping him tinker with the car or fixing the washer. Later, I had a favorite math teacher in college and then a few awesome engineering teachers at Seattle University. Dean Kamen is another hero for me. Dean has dedicated his life to some wonderful inventions that help humanity along with countless hours spent keeping FIRST going for over 20 years.
What’s the most meaningful or rewarding aspect of being connected to engineering?
The most meaningful part of being an engineer is knowing that I have the ability to figure out most anything in front of me. My education helps me think things through logically. I have a huge network of like-minded colleagues that I can ask for help from. I also am rewarded when I can share this passion with others. With my mentoring at work or through FIRST or through ASME, I can be a role model and share my experience so others might be inspired to finish their education or invent something that helps others.
What does ASME mean to you?
ASME has given me wonderful opportunities. I get to rub shoulders with some very inspirational engineers. I have the chance to work with local engineering students as the chair of my local section. I get to travel to many cities. I've been given the chance to volunteer in many roles. I'm mostly grateful for the wonderful friends I've made in ASME
With my mentoring at work or through FIRST or through ASME, I can be a role model and share my experience so others might be inspired to finish their education or invent something that helps others.
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