Aisha Bowe realizes the current STEM field has an insufficient number of minorities but through her company, STEMBoard, she hopes to make an impact in changing that dynamic.
Bowe, a trained aerospace engineer, serves as the president and CEO of STEMBoard, a 20-employee, Arlington-based engineering company.
The company’s charge – to provide its mainly federal government and private sector clientele with the capacity to “solve complex problems, enable integration of technology and mission at key points and provide actionable intelligence,” according to its website.
In 2020, Bowe’s company received recognition by Inc. Magazine as one of the 5,000 fastest growing private companies in the U.S., ranking 2,284.
STEMBoard operates as a certified economically disadvantaged women-owned small business and an 8(a) certified company with a top-secret facilities clearance. The company provides IT services, program and project management, data management and analytics with a bent on providing solutions for their clients. Additionally, STEMBoard works to close the educational achievement gap of minorities through STEM camps, partnerships with historically-Black colleges and universities and counseling youth on career opportunities.
The National Society of Black Engineers reported in 2015 that the percentage of STEM bachelor’s degrees awarded to Black women declined to 4%, down from 5% in 2006. The study also revealed that fewer than 1% of U.S. engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded went to Black females in 2015.
Despite the hurdles, a milestone in aerospace engineering occurred in 2015 when Dr. Wendy Okolo became the first Black woman to earn a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington.
Bowe’s Journey to Forming STEMBoard
Bowe, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., said when she embarked on an engineering career in high school, she received discouragement from her counselor and family members.
“My high school counselor told me it would be better for me to study cosmetology,” she said. “I was told by my counselor that engineering would be too hard for me. My family had doubts, too, saying I should get a job at the nearby Ford auto plant because Ford had good benefits.”
“I didn’t listen to the advice and pursued my dream of being an engineer. I love science fiction and it fueled my interest in STEM fields,” she said.
After high school, Bowe attended Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor and in two years received an associate degree. She transferred her credits to the University of Michigan where she earned her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering there. But not before she had to overcome a demanding curriculum and learn how to associate with more affluent, legacy classmates.
Her perseverance paid off and she received her degree in 2008. A year later, she earned her master’s degree in space systems engineering, also from the University of Michigan.
In 2009, she went to work at the NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley in the Flight Trajectory Dynamics and Controls Branch of the Aviation Systems Division as a missions engineer. She worked on satellites and air traffic management and received citations for her work.
She also served as a mentor for young people of color interested in science and engineering careers. While she enjoyed her career at NASA, she decided to strike out on her own as an entrepreneur with STEMBoard which she founded in 2013. She left the government sector in 2015.
“I started STEMBoard because I wanted to run a company,” she said. “That’s why I moved to the Washington, D.C. area. That is where the federal government is.”
In order to assist youth, Bowe created STEMBoard’s LINGO project, a coding kit which teaches hardware and software design through self-paced lessons. The kit contains hardware, an instructional guide and instructional videos.
“LINGO is available at Amazon, Walmart and Target and we have made connections to Bowie State University, General Electric and the Howard University Middle School,” Bowe said. “A lot of teachers use our kit. The feedback we get on it is tremendous. We want kids of color to look at this kit and use and think one day I could be an engineer.”