June 17th, 2010

Woman reaches for stars, grabs Mars Lancaster

Heidi Ahnert faced astronomical odds when she decided to enter a competition to design a Mars Rover for NASA.
Ahnert, 47, a part-time student at Harrisburg Area Community College who works as a math and reading tutor at Landisville Middle School, had been a stay-at-home mom for the past 20 years.
She didn’t even know what she was getting into, because she had been given erroneous information about the contest and initially believed it was a robotics competition.
As it turned out, it was much more than that: The challenge she faced was to design a model of a Rover suitable to land on Mars. Competitors also were required to work out a project timeline and budget.
Ahnert, who last took science and math classes 30 years ago, was competing against astrophysics and aerospace engineer majors enrolled at community colleges across the country.
She enlisted the help of her students, who were serving in-school suspensions for bad behavior.