Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream
Finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize Four undocumented Mexican American students, two great teachers, one robot-building contest . . . and a major motion picture In 2004, four Latino teenagers arrived at the Marine Advanced Technology Education Robotics Competition at the University of California, Santa Barbara. They were born in Mexico but raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where they attended an underfunded public high school. No one had ever suggested to Oscar, Cristian, Luis, or Lorenzo that they might amount to much--but two inspiring science teachers had convinced these impoverished, undocumented kids from the desert who had never even seen the ocean that they should try to build an underwater robot. And build a robot they did. Their robot wasn't pretty, especially compared to those of the competition. They were going up against some of the best collegiate engineers in the country, including a team from MIT backed by a $10,000 grant from ExxonMobil. The Phoenix teenagers had scraped together less than $1,000 and built their robot out of scavenged parts. This was never a level competition--and yet, against all odds . . . they won But this is just the beginning for these four, whose story--which became a key inspiration to the DREAMers movement--will go on to include first-generation college graduations, deportation, bean-picking in Mexico, and service in Afghanistan. Joshua Davis's Spare Parts is a story about overcoming insurmountable odds and four young men who proved they were among the most patriotic and talented Americans in this country--even as the country tried to kick them out.
From the Back Cover Praise for Spare Parts Spare Parts is one of those rare stories that grabs hold and doesn't let go. It's hilarious, sad, and beautifully told. It will make you think hard about what it means to be American and where we will find the next generation of talent. --Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail Spare Parts is an unforgettable tale of hope and human ingenuity. Against a backdrop of urban desert decay, a faltering school system, and our country's cutthroat immigration policies, Joshua Davis offers a moving testament to how teamwork, perseverance, and a few good teachers can lift up and empower even the humblest among us. --Héctor Tobar, author of Deep Down Dark Biography / Education ISBN: 978-0-374-18337-0
From the front Cover In 2004, four Latino teenagers arrived at a national underwater robotics championship at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Oscar, Lorenzo, Cristian, and Luis were all born in Mexico but raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where they grew up in constant fear of deportation. Their high school-- hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, no pool, little money to spare, and more than 80 percent of students below the poverty line--was the last place you'd expect to find kids building an underwater robot. But two bighearted teachers believed that four unusual students--a disciplined ROTC cadet, a rebellious would-be gang member, a brainy nerd, and a quiet towering giant--needed something different in their lives. Their robot, which they dubbed Stinky, wasn't much to look at, especially compared to the competition. They were up against some of the best student engineers in the country, including a team from MIT backed by a $10,000 grant from ExxonMobil. The Phoenix teenagers had scraped together less than $1,000 and built their robot out of scavenged parts, donations from bemused strangers, and, when Stinky sprang a leak just moments before the competition, a handful of tampons. But this contest is just the beginning for these four young men, whose story takes us from the unpaved roads of West Phoenix to the halls of Congress and from the battlefields of Afghanistan to vigilante-style murders in the American Southwest. It is a story whose impact is still being felt today. It is the story of a fight for the new American Dream.