For the Blohowiaks, Boeing runs in the family. Kay Blohowiak and her husband Jim started working for our company in Seattle in the late ‘80s. Their daughter, Denise, joined us in 2015 as an intern in St. Louis.

“I can remember when Denise was in school and she would call me to ask a question on her homework,” says Kay. “Now I have the opportunity to learn from her and her Boeing experiences. I feel so lucky to be able to work with my daughter.

Both Kay and Denise are successful inventors and are passionate about educating teammates on the process for submitting invention disclosures for possible patenting. Kay holds nearly 55 patents, and her most rewarding invention was the one she worked on with her daughter.

The pair, together with their colleague, Kenny Kruger, invented a tool that helps remove adhesive-backed decals and appliqués from an aircraft’s surface. Adhesives are used often over an aircraft’s lifecycle, and removing them can be time consuming and tedious. The trio’s invention is a tool that delivers CO2 or nitrogen into the tip of a scraper head, which creates a targeted application of a cryogenic gas that causes the adhesive to become more brittle and easier to remove quickly and cleanly.

“While this tool is still in the development phase, our goal is for it to be used on a range of Boeing products in the future,” says Denise. “And this is just one technical solution. We plan to continue to look for ways we can innovate together.”

Kay recently spearheaded an inaugural “Innovation Day”—an entire day set aside for inventors to document and submit invention disclosures. Innovation Day resulted in the submission of 18 new inventions, several from first-time and international inventors.

“Many people are apprehensive to submit invention disclosures because they worry their idea isn't novel enough or someone must have thought of it before,” says Kay. “But we want all employees to feel confident in submitting their ideas, which is why education on the process is so important.”

Kay and Denise in front of plane
Kay and Denise visiting the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

Denise credits her parents’ technical background for inspiring her interest in STEM and is now inspiring future generations by working with her alma mater to mentor students on their senior design projects. She also mentors her teammates through their first few years at our company.

“I feel lucky to have grown up with strong technical leaders in my home as role models,” Denise said. “I try to provide similar inspiration to students and professionals entering my field. Seeing my mentees grow as innovators is immensely rewarding.”