When Aisha Bowe started classes at Washtenaw Community College in Michigan she had planned to study international business, but a change of heart – inspired by her father’s decision to go back to school for electrical engineering – upended her trajectory. “He brought up this idea that maybe I could be an engineer, too,” says Bowe. She buckled down, started succeeding in math classes, and began to imagine a future where she would pursue aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan and then work at NASA. And she did exactly that. After six years at NASA Ames Research Center in the San Francisco Bay Area where she was surrounded by Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs, Bowe decided to take the leap herself and in 2013, at age 27, founded STEMBoard, a company that solves technology challenges for government clients and designs educational Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) products and workshops for all ages. STEMBoard now has close to 20 employees, a growing portfolio of federal clients, and has launched their first commercial education product: a coding toolkit that teaches STEM fundamentals by having learners build a backup sensor for a driverless car. In honor of Women’s History Month and the launch of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s #LightASpark campaign to inspire young girls to pursue careers in STEM, we spoke with Bowe about her rapid rise to business ownership, the challenges facing minority and female entrepreneurs, and why she keeps STEM outreach at the core of her company.
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