The Mars Rover Challenge team from CBC High School Academy prepares for competition in Alabama

A girl who planned to be a baker, now wants to be a nuclear engineer.

A child who wanted to go directly to work after obtaining a high school diploma, now has a pbadion for physics.

A student brought to the US UU In kindergarten, he now aspires to be a lawyer.

These are common stories at the Columbia Basin College High School Academy, which takes students between the ages of 16 and 20 who dropped out or nearly dropped out of high school. school, and gives them a second chance to get a diploma.

Now they are working on pbadions for engineering, physics and telemetry.

The Academy's Mars Rover Challenge team has helped authorize many of those success stories, and the team is preparing for its main event of the year.

Eleven students will travel next month to NASA's Human Exploration Challenge in Alabama, where they will compete with hundreds of other teams from around the world.

In the end, they will try to pilot their self-made buggy through a similar route to Mars.

"We refer to ourselves as the square pegs that do not fit in the round holes, and wear that with pride," said Jerry Hombel, mentor to the school's Mars Rover team since its inception four years ago. "But these guys are geniuses, they're amazing, it's just making them believe in that."

We refer to ourselves as the square pegs that do not fit in the round holes, and we wear it with pride. But these guys are all geniuses. They are incredible. It's just making them believe in that.

Jerry Hombel, mentor Mars Rover Challenge

It is the fourth year that the academy has a team, the only one of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, and so far has been quite successful, placing in the upper third of the 90 or more high schools that compete every year.

While designing, creating and testing spacecraft educates and challenges students, collaborating with a team of partners can be just as valuable.

"They are building their confidence and encouraging each other," said Amy Buehler, one of the two principal teachers at the academy. "Only in a few months, these children have really grown up." It's really rewarding. "

Hombel, the other academy teacher who focuses on STEM education, grew up dreaming of space travel, and at one point worked part time at NASA, through the Mars Rover team and teaching at the academy, he can connect children with disciplines that he considers important that may be missing from other schools.

"We need more and more people in engineering and science and STEM areas," Hombel said. "I'm going to take a step here. and say that the government has dropped the ball. They point the finger and say "these guys are not good enough", they just talk about the students in general.

"When I was a child, I had dreams of going to the moon because I saw the astronauts go to the moon, and suddenly, those dreams are carried away, there are your maths and science, and we need more of those."

The Hombel guide has inspired nine of its current Mars Rover team members to apply for internships at NASA and one of them, Allison Mazurek, has already been accepted into the program.

Success comes in all forms for the challenge team, and for all 62 enrolled in the academy.

We need more and more people in engineering and science and STEM areas. I'm going to take a step here and say that the government has dropped the ball.

Jerry Hombel, mentor Mars Rover Challenge

Senior Sharon Alfaro, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico when she was 5 years old, says she was expelled from her home by her parents and almost dropped out of school. Now, she is helping build a telemetry system for a Mars rover and one day hopes to be a lawyer focused on immigration and human rights.

"I am learning many things that I never thought I would be capable of". Alfaro said. "It's a new opportunity to overcome your fears."

Through tears, he added: "I hope I can be a kind of inspiration … I think 5 years old, I would cross the border would be very proud."

In Alabama, the challenge team will visit the Marshall Space Flight Center will meet with NASA engineers and scientists, socialize with other teams from Germany, Russia and other countries and more.

Hombel estimated that 90 high school and 90 college teams will attempt to navigate an almost one-mile obstacle course in their rovers while collecting samples.

The CBC team hopes to have its four-wheeler, two-person Rover, powered by pedals, ready to be tested next week, Hombel said. The vehicle, which the team has worked since October, must be designed, built and tested by the students.

The team expects travel and mobile materials to cost $ 25,000. For information on how to help them raise the last $ 15,000, visit

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