Tom Duong is an academic support specialist for the college who co-manages and co-develops the Innovation and Collaboration Studio (ICS) for the Integrated Engineering Design (IED) program. He supervises students and 3D printing activities in the ICS, but is also a good hand at fixing or trouble-shooting 3D printers and CNC routers in general.
“I’m jack-of-all-trades and like to tinker on my own time,” he said. “I can help with fixing, innovating, improving, and automating anything and everything.”
Duong spent much of March 2020 helping out on an important and timely 3D printing project: producing thousands of headbands for face masks to be used by medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It isn’t his first experience with adapting to adverse situations.
“I was born in a refugee camp in Malaysia four years after the Vietnam War,” said Duong. “My parents were the ‘boat people’ in 1978 after being released from re-education camp and fleeing from communist rule.”
He grew up in Inglewood, California, then moved again with his family after the Los Angeles riots in the early 1990s. They settled in Big Orange Country.
“I spent most of my late teenage years and early adulthood here in Knoxville and consider this to be my hometown,” said Duong.
He served for seven years in the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion of the US Army before heading to college.
“It helped me develop being innovative with what I have at hand and solving problems through collaboration with other branches and task forces,” said Duong.
He earned his degree in engineering technology from Pellissippi State Community College with a concentration of both manufacturing and mechanical. While there, he acquired certifications in computer aided design, computer aided manufacturing, and additive manufacturing.
“During my off time, I got certified with the National Institute of Metalworking Skills in CAM Milling Level I, CAM Turning Level I, and Measurement, Materials & Safety Level I,” he said. He also holds a certification with SolidWorks.
Along with his collection of certified skills, Duong worked in a veterans’ cohort as an intern at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, doing advanced manufacturing for the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and other private companies. He brings all of this experience and know-how to the TCE team.
“I have built up a toolbox of knowledge of different skills that I can share with my student workers to better prepare them for the world,” he said.
Duong also shares his wealth of interests and skills through numerous hobbies—“Probably too many,” he quipped.
“Recently, I have gotten into riding an electric skateboard,” he said. “I’m actually the staff sponsor for the UTK ESk8er club. We usually have group rides on weekends around town.”
His list goes on to include occasionally teaching bonsai and working with community charities through Freemason’s Lodge 453.
“I’m a sitting officer and have been known to help with the circus or fair as Shriner wearing his fez,” he said. “I’m also known to turn a wrench and ride on a Harley Davidson on weekends. I have my own woodshop and machine shop where I fabricate, fix and craft everything & anything. I’m also into aquariums, aquaponics, horticulture and beekeeping.
He recently started an orchard of Fuyu persimmons on his northwest Knoxville land.
“I should stop here or we will be here all day because I can go on,” he said. “I spend my life learning a bit of everything.”
He shares his home with a rabbit who enjoys hanging out at the house all day.
“She pays no attention until you have dried cranberries, then she wants to be friends,” laughed Duong. “Coolest rabbit ever.”