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Feature Story

Boeing's Cindy Stong left meets with a student for the First Lego League Regional Tournament.

Mike Goettings / Boeing

Boeing's Cindy Stong left meets with a student at Salt River High School, Scottsdale, Ariz., to review progress on his competition robot for the First Lego League Regional Tournament.

Inspiring the next generation

Boeing engineer Cindy Stong will never forget a presentation she was given on nanotechnology. It was delivered by a 6-year-old boy—who introduced it with a song.

Stong, based at the company’s Mesa, Ariz., site, said the encounter occurred when she was serving as a judge in a junior technology competition.

“I went up to him and said, ‘Tell me about your project,’ ” Stong recalled. “He turned his back to me and then, all of a sudden, he spun around and had this cute little song introducing his presentation. When his song was over, he explained the whole concept of nanotechnology—and he was only 6!”

Stong is among the many Boeing employees who volunteer in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—or “STEM”—activities, which encourage students to consider careers in these fields. Volunteering enhances personal development and is a rewarding experience, said employees who take part in these activities. It also plays an important role in strengthening the future engineering-based companies such as Boeing.

"I feel like I'm doing something that's going to have an impact beyond my time with the company."

“There are a lot of exciting and important technology and engineering discoveries yet to be made. If we reach out to young people, we might just inspire someone who will make these discoveries in the future,” said John Tracy, Boeing chief technology officer and senior vice president of Engineering, Operations & Technology.

Statistics and demographic trends in the United States indicate the demand for employees who have the skills needed by high-tech industries could outpace the supply. STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared with 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations, according to U.S. government data. Meanwhile, the data also show that of the 3.7 million students who enter kindergarten each year, only about 67,000 will end up earning a four-year college degree in engineering.

In the United States, Feb. 19–25 is National Engineers Week, an annual cross-industry celebration of the contribution of engineers to society. This year’s theme is “7 Billion Dreams,” which relates to the potential of engineers to inspire great ideas in every person in the world.

And Boeing employees are passionate about bringing out that potential among students.

Supporting STEM outreach activities “really fits my passion for reaching out to young people,” said Erika Porter, of Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ Technical Excellence organization. She coordinates the After School Math and Science program, which sends Boeing engineers and technical professionals to teach special topics, such as the various aspects of flight, to elementary and middle school students. “I feel like I’m doing something that’s going to have an impact beyond my time with the company.”

To read more about employees taking part in STEM outreach activities, see this article from the February 2012 edition of Frontiers magazine.