Now, the Northrop Grumman Corp. engineer is applying that real-world experience in the classroom, where he teaches a course on fluid mechanics at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
"I was a relentless builder of things growing up," Stanfield said. "It all started with Lego sets and model kits."
Fluid mechanics is the study of liquids and gases under stationary and moving conditions. Students who major in mechanical, aerospace and civil engineering will likely encounter fluid motion issues when designing cars, medical equipment and duct systems, to name a few.
Fluid mechanics is very difficult," said Derek Cooper, a 21-year-old mechanical engineering major at UMES. "But Dr. Stanfield definitely makes it easier to comprehend."
Northrop Grumman relocated its engineering and fabrication operation from Virginia to Somerset County in 2010 to support a U.S. Navy contract. Stanfield is engineering director and deputy program manager at the facility in the Princess Anne Industrial Park.
"Part of the attraction to moving to Princess Anne for me was the chance to teach at UMES," said Stanfield, who once considered teaching high school physics. This spring, he teaches a class with two mechanical and two aerospace engineering majors.
Stanfield graduated from Longwood College in Farmville, Va., with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and a minor in mathematics and secondary education.
"Longwood is about the same size as UMES," he said. "I enjoyed attending a smaller college since it gave me the chance to be more involved with the college itself. Those were leadership experiences that I have been able to apply in my career."
Stanfield's first job was with the Department of the Army, where he worked as a physicist for 10 years.
"I worked on landmine countermeasures and tactical deception systems," he said. "Despite my title, they were using me more as a mechanical engineer than as a physicist, so I steered my graduate studies in that direction."
The New Jersey native, who grew up in an Air Force family, earned a Master of Science in engineering and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
"I attended all of my graduate school classes while working full time and raising a growing family, so I understand the pressures that non-traditional students have when balancing school, work, and family," Dr. Stanfield said.
Stanfield specialized in structure-borne acoustics and vibrations while attending graduate school at Catholic University.
"My dissertation focused on the use of axisymmetric shell finite element models to predict vibration in the airframes of sounding rockets," he said. "I also studied the use of passive vibration control techniques to manage these vibrations."
Stanfield -- who is married to his wife of 22 years, Theresa, and has two teenagers -- has worked for Northrop Grumman for 12 years. In the community, he volunteers as an assistant scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America; a referee for the American Youth Soccer Organization; and as a coordinator of the Chincoteague Island YMCA runner's group. He also is a marathon runner.
Stanfield would like to continue teaching the fast-paced fluid mechanics course at UMES, which includes advanced mathematics such as differential equations and integral calculus. He's also open to teaching other courses within the mechanical engineering field.
Next time someone says, "It's not rocket science," check with Stanfield's students. The answer might surprise.