March 30, 2005


La Vida Robot (Joshua Davis,April 2005,

There certainly isn't a lot of pride on the outside. The school buildings are mostly drab, late '50s-era boxes. The front lawn is nothing but brown scrub and patches of dirt. The class photos beside the principal's office tell the story of the past four decades. In 1965, the students were nearly all white, wearing blazers, ties, and long skirts. Now the school is 92 percent Hispanic. Drooping, baggy jeans and XXXL hoodies are the norm.

Across campus, in a second-floor windowless room, four students huddle around an odd, 3-foot-tall frame constructed of PVC pipe. They have equipped it with propellers, cameras, lights, a laser, depth detectors, pumps, an underwater microphone, and an articulated pincer. At the top sits a black, waterproof briefcase containing a nest of hacked processors, minuscule fans, and LEDs. It's a cheap but astoundingly functional underwater robot capable of recording sonar pings and retrieving objects 50 feet below the surface. The four teenagers who built it are all undocumented Mexican immigrants who came to this country through tunnels or hidden in the backseats of cars. They live in sheds and rooms without electricity. But over three days last summer, these kids from the desert proved they are among the smartest young underwater engineers in the country.

You simply must read this story. A bunch of bright, poor, 'undocumented' Mexican high school kids with about $800 in sponsorship money goes against MIT and $11,000 in sponsorship money for an underwater robot contest. How does it turn out? Here's a hint: Either Gene Hackman or Edward James Olmos should star as the Mentor/Coach when the movie is made....

Posted by Bruce Cleaver at March 30, 2005 3:14 PM

Great story. I am sure OJ will like it. Another example of how it ain't about the expenditure per pupil.

Posted by: Rick T. at March 30, 2005 3:23 PM

Well, that'll look awfully good on the MIT application...

Posted by: Mike Earl at March 30, 2005 4:12 PM

And the Tancredists think they can keep them out by fencing off the land border?

Posted by: oj at March 30, 2005 4:14 PM

The only positive argument pro-immigrationists ever present consists of a one-sided diet of examples.

Posted by: carter at March 30, 2005 5:00 PM

Terribly dishonest of them. Think of how glorious our history would be without those nasty immigrants.

Posted by: Luciferous at March 30, 2005 5:20 PM

My mother taught at Carl Hayden High School from 1970 to 1994. When I was a teenager, some of her students were my friends. She watched the school change as described in the article. It was tough. Carl Hayden is a tough place. If there is a school shooting in Phoenix, it's probably at Carl Hayden. It's good to know that some of them are still in there trying.

Posted by: Brandon at March 30, 2005 5:21 PM

Anyone care to tell Steve Sailer?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at March 30, 2005 11:10 PM