Farrar, Straus and Giroux
240 pp • $14.00
Spanish Language Edition
240 pages • $14.00
Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream
“Spare Parts is an unforgettable tale of hope and human ingenuity. 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
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.
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.
© Sebastian Mlynarski
Joshua Davis is a contributing editor at Wired and a cofounder of Epic magazine. He lives in San Francisco with his family.
Beyond the Book
La Vida Robot
Josh Davis first wrote about the Carl Hayden Community High School Falcon Robotics Club for WIRED magazine in April 2005. You can read his article and see accompanying photos in the WIRED archives online:
La Vida Robot: How four underdogs from the mean streets of Phoenix took on the best from M.I.T. in the national underwater bot championship
Underwater Dreams: The Documentary
“Underwater Dreams, narrated by Michael Peña, and written and directed by Mary Mazzio, chronicles the true story of how the sons of undocumented Mexican immigrants learned how to build underwater robots. And go up against MIT in the process.”
Learn more about the film at underwaterdreamsfilm.com. To find out how to order the film for educational or community group screening, please visit the production company’s website, 50Eggs.com.
Spare Parts: The Feature Film
“Spare Parts is a true life story about four Hispanic high school students who form a robotics club under the leadership of their school’s newest teacher, Fredi (George Lopez). With no experience, 800 bucks, used car parts and a dream, this rag tag team goes up against the country’s reigning robotics champion, MIT. On their journey, they learn not only how to build a robot—they learn to build a bond that will last a lifetime.”—Pantelion, LLC