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Update | Spring/Summer 2024

Marina Bloomer Shapes the Next Generation of Powerful Women in STEM

Chris Malina

Photography by Paul L. Newby II

Marina Bloomer seated in front of galaxy backdrop

Step into a workshop at Stellar Tech Girls and you might see model rockets being shot into the air or smell the spark of electrical circuits being constructed. Whatever the activity, you’re likely to sense an underlying theme of bold experimentation—and not worrying if the result doesn’t pan out.

Which, says Marina Bloomer (MBA ’22), is exactly the point.

“Everything I do encourages girls to not be afraid,” she says. “I want them to try things early, to build prototypes, to not be afraid of failure, to keep testing and iterating because that’s what engineering is.”

As the founder and program director of the Middleton, Wisconsin-based Stellar Tech Girls, Bloomer is on a mission to get more girls and nonbinary children interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Through workshops and camps filled with hands-on experiments—and camaraderie—Bloomer is taking a unique approach to leveling the STEM playing field.

“Only 15% of the engineering workforce is female,” says Bloomer. “There’s a lot of work to do and I’m doing my best to change that.”

With years of experience working in rocket propulsion, degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and an MBA from the Wisconsin School of Business, one thing’s for sure: There’s no one better to help girls launch their STEM careers into the stratosphere.

Marina working with a girl at Stellar Tech Girls
Through hands-on projects and experiments, Bloomer helps participants cultivate a love for STEM.

Ready to launch

There was something about that first physics class that just clicked.

Growing up, Bloomer enjoyed all subjects at school, but physics sparked her scholarly interest in engineering. And while she enjoyed what she was learning in the classroom, she started noticing who wasn’t there with her.

“When you start taking those advanced math and science classes, you begin to see fewer women,” Bloomer says. “Then, as I climbed the ranks in my career, I eventually became the only woman in the room.”

It’s something she continued to think about as her engineering work took her to companies like GE Aviation and SpaceX. While she developed propulsion systems and launched rockets, she also made time to host engineering workshops for girls and teach Lego robotics to middle schoolers—a critical life stage for cementing interest in STEM.

Over the years, she saw the positive impact of this informal mentoring—to the point where the idea of leaving behind a stable engineering job to start something new took hold.

When her career took her to Madison, she found the perfect opportunity for a little experimentation through the Wisconsin MBA program.

“I decided to use it as a test platform,” Bloomer says. “I wanted to build out a business plan, learn a bit more about marketing and other sides of business, and see if it made sense to make the jump.”

While working full time, Bloomer dug into the MBA program. Through coursework and support from WSB’s Marketing Leadership Institute and Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship, she began building the plan for what would become Stellar Tech Girls—and nearing graduation, left her engineering job to focus exclusively on bringing the business to life.

“That last semester was really my launchpad,” she says. “That’s when I was looking at commercial space, working the financials, and finalizing all the details. And as a solo entrepreneur, having that support and resources from WSB made all the difference.”

“Everything I do encourages girls to not be afraid.”

—Marina Bloomer (MBA ’22)

Powered by possibility

It doesn’t take an engineer to notice that the Stellar Tech Girls space doesn’t exactly resemble your traditional laboratory. With bright colors, natural light, and a playlist of music curated by girls in the program, Bloomer has designed a distinctly fun, purposeful space.

“I tried to create a place where girls would want to invite their friends,” says Bloomer, who officially opened the doors of her business in May 2022. “We want girls to feel like this is a community for them—an inclusive space where they can love science and all the other things girls love at that age.”

Whether it’s the cool space or the engaging engineering activities, the business has attracted its share of attention over the past two years. Stellar Tech Girls took first place in the Business Services category at the Governor’s Business Plan contest in 2022, and Bloomer later appeared on the TV show Project Pitch It and landed a $10,000 prize for the business.

Poised for growth, Bloomer says she’s primarily focused on the here and now: getting through the busy summer camp season, expanding programming options, and reaching more kids through sponsorships and scholarships.

But growth is only one way to measure success, and when you’re working with middle schoolers, getting their approval just might be the ultimate test. With rave reviews so far, one might say there’s enough data to form a solid hypothesis—or, in Bloomer’s words:

“It means we’re doing something right.”