Cathy Rongey started volunteering with FIRST® Robotics in 2007 with an introduction to Gracious Professionalism. Both prepare young students for a future career in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It's a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. Gracious Professionalism resonated with Cathy because it aligns with her personal values and is a way to give back to the community.
Through these activities, this working mom found a way to volunteer in STEM fields, enabling her to be more involved with her own kids after work and on the weekends. Over 13 years with FIRST, she has been involved with Junior FIRST Lego League, FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics Competition teams and associated events.
In 2008, Cathy was able to help launch FIRST Lego League and Jr. FLL teams at her kids’ elementary school with the help of a BAE Systems sponsorship. The partnership journey continued, and enabled the start-up of several teams at neighboring elementary and middle schools. In 2010, Cathy started mentoring the Westview High’s Robotics team, where she focuses on students’ soft skills, business, and leadership development. She continues to mentor this team and has already logged more than 160 volunteer hours this year alone through the BAE Systems Workplace Giving portal.
In 2017, Cathy was recognized as the Poway Unified School District Volunteer of the Year at the high school level for volunteering with Westview Robotics. This year the FRC #3341 Option 16 team nominated her for the Woodie Flowers Award at the Del Mar Regional. In May, Cathy will be celebrating her 30-year anniversary with BAE Systems!