Carnegie Mellon University


December 13, 2019

STARS Club Explores Space Industry in Seattle

Students at Tepper for Astronautics, Rockets & Space visited companies building new technologies for the growing space industry.

During the fall semester break in the Tepper School of Business MBA schedule, Students at Tepper for Astronautics, Rockets & Space traveled to Seattle, Washington, to visit with a variety of companies connected to the growing space industry. STARS members spent three days exploring the city and meeting with industry leaders.

With a strong network of recruiters, the Tepper School offers MBA students ample opportunity to connect with potential employers right from the start of their MBA journeys. Starting in the fall semester, student clubs host “treks” to major cities across the U.S. to connect with companies and alumni in various industries and functions.

“Career treks are a significant resource for MBA students to gain valuable insights and make important contacts within industries of interest,” said Stephen Rakas, Executive Director of the Masters Career Center. “The treks provide invaluable networking opportunities and we’re pleased to support our student organizations each year in building strong, lasting connections to our Tepper alumni network and the broader business community.”

On a career trek, students visit companies that partner with the Tepper School to recruit MBA interns and graduates, as well as other leading companies of interest to the students. They may also attend social gatherings to connect with alumni and industry leaders in the area to learn more about the city and build their professional networks.

Uncommon Ground

STARS launched in 2017 to help Tepper School students become more familiar with what is happening in the space and aeronautics industry. “I don’t think MBAs generally think of space as an industry that they would go into,” first-year MBA student Kristina Nikiforova said. “Space is going to be really big in the next 10 to 15 years — much moreso than I think the public is aware of, especially in the private space industry.” 

Nikiforova said she was interested in the club in part because she had wanted to be an astronaut when she was growing up. “I see that there are a lot of things that I could do within the industry that I hadn’t really considered before,” she said. “I’m really interested in what’s coming next.”

The club invites recruiters and leaders from private firms and defense companies to give corporate presentations. It also hosts a campus-wide Space Innovation Challenge, a case competition sponsored by Bessemer Venture Partners, Blue Origin, and Astrobotic, which also provides opportunities for participating students to make professional contacts in the industry.

“Most schools do not have a club that’s focused on this,” Nikiforova said. “Tepper is known for being an engineering, robotics, and AI powerhouse. So I think, of all schools, it makes sense for it to be here.”

More Than Science Fiction

In their October trek, STARS first visited Amazon’s Project Kuiper, an initiative to launch thousands of satellites into orbit in order to provide internet service across the globe. They also saw a research house funded by NASA that is working on innovations like water-based fuel for space travel and systems to decommission satellites so they fall out of orbit rather than remaining as space junk.

During their visit to DroneSeed, a startup using drone swarms for massive reforestation after wildfires, the students heard that the company would soon be making a big announcement. The Friday following the trek, the #TeamTrees crowdfunding effort to replant 20 million trees using DroneSeed’s technology launched, bolstered by a $1 million donation from Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. “It was very interesting to be right in the thick of that,” Nikiforova said.

She also enjoyed the visit to Blue Origin, where STARS members had the opportunity to tour the company’s space tourism capsule at the company’s rocket factory. The tour guide explained what the experience would be like for space travelers. “I didn’t realize how far along they were,” she said. “It was sci-fi. It was surreal.”

The trek was planned by second-year MBA students, who looked for businesses that would best capture the interest of about a dozen student attendees, including a few part-time students and one from the Master of Science in Product Management program. The smaller size compared to other Tepper School MBA treks allowed for in-depth conversations with the companies and among attendees, Nikiforova said. “I definitely made some really good connections.”

The most important benefit, Nikiforova said, was introducing the students to a budding industry that is unfamiliar to most business students, where opportunities are increasing. “They were very open to having interns or were telling us they were growing and they need people,” she said. “All those companies were fantastic.”