Aerospace engineer encourages STEM education
Aerospace engineer Aisha Bowe has used her imagination and creativity to contribute to space exploration. But it wasn’t until college that anyone ever encouraged her to pursue studies in a science discipline.
When that happened, it became a life changer.
A former aerospace engineer and mission engineer at NASA Ames Research Centre and the current co-founder and CEO of STEMBoard — an engineering and development enterprise — Bowe is a passionate proponent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. She is also of Bahamian descent.
Bowe was the recent guest speaker at The College of The Bahamas, encouraging high school and college students to embrace educational opportunities in the STEM field.
She admitted that initially, she had no idea that she wanted to become an engineer.
“I was in community college. I was pursuing a degree in business and at the time no one I had met had encouraged me to pursue anything in the science field,” she shared. “It was never really a possibility and while my father is an electrical engineer, he received his degree at 40 so if you do the math, he was not yet an engineer when he encouraged me to just take a math class and see how that would turn out.”
It turned out that following her father’s advice led her to become one of two African American females and approximately 10 females enrolled at the time in the aerospace engineering program at the University of Michigan. She eventually earned a B.S.E. in Aerospace Engineering and a M.Eng in Space Systems Engineering, from the University of Michigan.
“You are why I am here, because I want to see more Bahamians in the science and technology field,” she told the students.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has a similar goal, of convincing an increasing number of students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and math.
“I started my engineering degree with pre-algebra at a community college and as I started to do better and better in math, which I feel was my gateway. I then found that I’m in Calculus II … I’m in Calculus III — I’m good at this stuff, so maybe I should set bigger goals for myself,” she said.
In 2008, she landed a job as an intern at NASA Ames Research Centre working on a new modular adapter for satellites. Eventually, NASA Ames hired Bowe as a mission engineer.
“I found myself out on an island in Alaska with a satellite that we had carried up in essentially a large briefcase. Who could beat that, right? As your first year on the job you really can’t beat that anywhere and so it was an amazing experience where I had the opportunity to meet lots of talented engineers, work on a diverse set of phenomenal projects and for five plus years I spent my time on launch pads working satellites and also working on aircraft in the United States Aviation System,” she said.
Bowe, 29, was the recipient of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce Emerging Star award, the 2014 National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. Silicon Valley Chapter Woman of the Year in Technology honor and the 2013 Black Engineer of the Year award.