March 30, 2005
La Vida Robot

i want to see these kids working on a desert ugv next
The Carl Hayden Community High School Falcon Robotics Club

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”, from Wired [via Boing Boing].

ROTC had trained Oscar well: He knew how to motivate people. He made sure that everyone was in the room and focused when he phoned Frank Szwankowski, who sold industrial and scientific thermometers at Omega Engineering in Stamford, Connecticut. Szwankowski knew as much about thermometer applications as anyone in the US. All day long, he talked to military contractors, industrial engineers, and environmental consultants. So he was momentarily confused when he heard Oscar's high-pitched Mexican accent on the other end of the line. The 17-year-old kid from the desert wanted advice on how to build a military-grade underwater ROV

One of the best group-of-ESL-students-and-undocumented-kids-from-a-poor-phoenix-neighborhood-out-design-out-engineer-and-out-document-a-bunch-of-snobby-engineering-school-students-in-an-underwater-remotely-operated-vehicle-contest stories I've seen in a while.

Before they could sit down again, Merrill told them that they had won the technical writing award.

“Us illiterate people from the desert?” Lorenzo thought. He looked at Cristian, who had been responsible for a large part of the writing. Cristian was beaming. To his analytical mind, there was no possibility that his team - a bunch of ESL students - could produce a better written report than kids from one of the country's top engineering schools.

The school district has started a scholarship fund for the kids involved, and it sounds like it's needed:

Oscar wipes the white gypsum dust from his face. It's a hot Tuesday afternoon in Phoenix, and he's hanging sheetrock. He graduated from Carl Hayden last spring, and this is the best work he can find. He enjoys walking into the half-built homes and analyzing the engineering. He thinks it'll keep him sharp until he can save up enough money to study engineering at Arizona State University. It will cost him approximately $50,000 as an out-of-state student. That's a lot of sheet-rocking.

Luis also graduated and is filing papers in a Phoenix Social Security Services office. Cristian and Lorenzo are now juniors. Their families can barely support themselves, let alone raise the money to send their kids to college. Last summer, Cristian's hopes flagged even further when his family was forced to spend $3,000 to replace the decrepit air-conditioning unit in their aluminum trailer. Without AC, the trailer turns into a double-wide oven in the desert heat.

When Oscar gets home from work that night, he watches the gypsum dust swirl down the sink drain when he washes his hands. He wonders what formulas define a vortex. On the other side of the neighborhood, Cristian lies on his bed and tries to picture the moisture in the clouds above. Rain isn't predicted anytime soon

Posted by jjwiseman at March 30, 2005 11:43 PM

I liked the tampon story, as close as it gets to one of these duct tape stories.

Posted by: Igor Carron on March 31, 2005 12:19 AM

Les applaudo en el gran exito. Me recuerda de la pelicula "Stand and Deliver"
Saludos desde Fresno, CA

Posted by: Jorge,R on May 2, 2005 02:46 PM

my husband,Oscar and his friends, luis, lorenzo and christan have all become an insperation to every one across the nation. They have shown people that nothing can stop you, no obstacle unless you let your self. They were some higfh school kids building a robot fo fun and beat one of "THE TOP ENGENEERING SCHOOL IN THE COUNTRY!"
I'm proud of all of them and the teachers, Cameron and Ledge

Posted by: karla Vazquez on March 31, 2006 09:31 AM
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