Spare Parts

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Spare Parts tells the true story of the 2004 Carl Hayden High School robotics team victory in a national underwater robotics competition. Dr. Allan Cameron, 2004 Carl Hayden High School robotics team coach and 2004 Carl Hayden High School robotics team members, Lorenzo Santillan and Cristian Arcega talk about the movie.

Jose Cardenas: It's a local story that has been made into a movie that premiered in theaters across the country last week. In 2004, the Carl Hayden robotics team won an underwater robotics competition beating many prestigious colleges. A story first reported on "Horizonte" that year. We will talk to one of the coaches and team members in a moment, but first here is a look at "spare parts."

Video: No formal teaching experience.

Video: No.

Video: You have had eight jobs in the last year.

Video: You probably guessed what my question is going to be.

Video: Where do I get my stamina?

Video: Four months. You last that long, it would be longer than most of my permanent hires.

Video: Nobody is going to crack open a book.

Video: Why are they --

Video: Engineering club --

Video: I would like to enter this. The 5th annual underwater robotics competition.

Video: You want to go up against the best tech schools in the country.

Video: Internships and jobs.

Video: You guys got some ground to make up. Other teams will have more money than you.

Video: You are still short $432.54.

Video: A couple of ice creams on the way in.

Video: Can I have an ice cream?

Video: Too late. Already wrote the check.

Video: We have to find cheap creative ways to build this thing.

Video: An absorbent.

Video: Every day in 100 ways they are told that they are worthless. That they are beyond hope.

Video: The more I start to wonder, am I going to let them down --

Video: Remember everything you said about not giving up. Well, we're not giving up.

Video: Full of surprises.

Video: Something like this in a horror movie once.

Video: Duke university, Virginia tech, MIT, and Carl Hayden community high school.

Video: We couldn't do this without you, sir. MM

Video: Finish line always appears. Think about how far we've come. And everything that we have gained that no one can take away what we started together. MM

Video: There she is.

Video: Are we looking at a teachable moment.

Video: Sure.

Video: Trying to show him a lesson about rejection.

Video:I think women are all horrible creatures.

Video: Uh-hmm.

Video: Yes, I like that, thank you.

Jose Cardenas: With me now to talk about the "Spare Parts" movie are Dr. Alan Cameron, one of the 2004 Carl Hayden robotics team coaches. Lorenzo Santillan, 2004 robotics team member, and Christian Arcega, another 2004 robotics team member. Well, it feels like old home week. We have had you on the show a number of times. As the article in "the republic" mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we were the first ones who covered you. A point of pride and honor for us. I think you all have aged much better than I have over the past 10 years. Congratulations, by the way, on the movie. This has been a great story for a long time. I'm sure it is quite flattering to have George Lopez play you, and also playing your colleague. The two of you kind of merged into one character here.

Dr. Alan Cameron: For the movie, they didn't want two teachers. They wanted one to make it a tighter story. The other teacher, myself -- the character he plays is Dr. Freddie Cameron.

Jose Cardenas: This is essentially the story, you think.

Dr. Alan Cameron: The feelings and the results is the story. It is uplifting, funny, tragic, you laugh, you cry, and in real life, I think this is our story.

Jose Cardenas: What did you think about the movie?

Christian Arcega: Yeah, I mean, they got the whole point that we wanted to get across. Every time we tell our story, somewhere they got it across. That whole inspirational motivation that we want to give to students in our communities, aim for higher education goals. To believe in themselves and actually see themselves having a bright future.

Jose Cardenas: Lorenzo, one thing pointed out in the article and in the movie, is a tension between you and your father, and broader issue about Latino families, maybe how they deal with higher education. How accurate was that?

Lorenzo Santillan: It was pretty accurate. I mean, phase of my life that I'm not very proud of, but at the same time it is what made me who I am. My father was a -- he wasn't the greatest father. I still have him and I don't blame him for what he had done but at the same time I wish I could have had like a good father figure for myself, but at the end of the day, it is what it is.

Dr. Alan Cameron: But you do have a good father figure.

Lorenzo Santillan: Yes, I do.

Dr. Alan Cameron: Who?

Lorenzo Santillan:Freddie.

Dr. Alan Cameron: Yeah.

Dr. Alan Cameron: Sometimes that's the role of a teacher. You become another parent or another big brother. And it pays off in the long run. It is part of the teaching job.

Jose Cardenas: And in your particular case, happy ending. One of the points that was emphasizes in the article in "the republic" -- the question was would your father show up for the premier? And he did and he was very proud.

Lorenzo Santillan:Right. I was a little nervous, because I thought he might not show up. And that has been the case of big events in my life. One of those five that graduated -- the first one out of my family of siblings to graduate from college, and he didn't show up. So, just kind of -- it brings back memories like come on, dad. You see that -- your children are succeeding and you are not supporting me in a big event in my life.

Jose Cardenas: It may not be to the same extent, one of the points made in the movie, and commented on I think by George Lopez himself, was that sometimes immigrant Latino families, the parents have a little tougher time adjusting to the fact that their kids want to go on to college.

Christian Arcega: Oh, yeah. It is difficult. Back then -- I was very fortunate. My parents have been very supportive of me but that was not the case for most of my peers. Even now, 10 years later, after the movie comes out, Latinos in our school, problems where they're having parents not support their higher educational goals. We have actually had parents of students that are getting scholarships to schools outside of the state, they tell teachers you are breaking up the family because you are sending my little girl to college to be an engineer. That is the problem that faces our community. Even the individuals that want to make something good in their own lives.

Jose Cardenas: It is not that the parents -- they are not familiar with higher education.

Christian Arcega: They are not very understanding or don't really understand the significance of these accomplishments that their kids actually want to perceive and what it does actually mean to -- a lot of parents -- most parents will say, well, I want my kid to go to college and a lot of these in our community especially, they don't understand the sacrifices in terms of not -- your family -- not having time for your family, even if you are going to school in the state. Even if a Latino student goes to let's say ASU, she still won't see her family very much at all because she will be busy studying every day for eight hours a day.

Jose Cardenas: Is this movie going to make a difference in that regard?

Lorenzo Santillan:I believe so. I mean, people -- special preview for the movie was held, and students went wild over it. I mean even though the -- they didn't know they were there. They were going -- for a story that was in their school. And I think it -- they had a sense of belonging to it because they all can relate to it.

Jose Cardenas: And Dr. Cameron, on our show, we have talked in the past about the particularly difficult role for Latinas, the daughters of immigrant families in terms of going away from the house. But you have had -- robotics program has had some rather fantastic stories, success stories of Latinas going on to higher education because of the robotics program.

Dr. Alan Cameron: It was just a quirk of randomness that there were four boys in this story.

Jose Cardenas: On the original team as well?

Dr. Alan Cameron: Yes, yes. All our robotics team, about 50%, 50/50. More importantly, the girls get turned on to engineering and mathematics and they go on to college but what is very unusual is that they graduate with the engineering degrees. Generally, 50% of the kids drop out of engineering nationally. Incoming engineering crowd 200 kids, only 100 will graduate with an engineering degree. When you see women graduating with an engineering degree, they are five, 10% of the graduating class. Latina -- if you ever run in a Latina engineer, ask her if she graduated from Carl Hayden.

Jose Cardenas: A great success story there. Speaking of stories, this was originally covered in "wired magazine" -- he has now written a book. So, you have a book, it has been in hard cover. Now paperback and a movie. Where do things go from here?

Dr. Alan Cameron: We'll see. We hope the movie, especially the book, not only is it entertaining, it's funny, and sad, we hope people will talk about it when they walk out of the theater. There is a lot of meat in there to talk about. There is immigration, family dynamics, group dynamics, there is how come we have to hustle so hard for a robotics program in a high school that probably spends tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars on after-school sports? Which one are the kids going to make a living at? The kids aren't going to professional sports. They may think they do. What if they were instead of all of that energy and time and resources, going into sports, which isn't necessarily bad, also went into after-school academics. Where do the brainiacs go for fun after school? Where do the kids that want a safe place to stay after school and work with other kids without being hassled, where do they go? Why can't that be a school function?

Jose Cardenas: We touched on this a little bit, but how accurate do you and your colleagues, your fellow teammates feel that the movie portrayed you and your circumstances?

Christian Arcega: My character in particular is very different. I don't want to give any spoilers away, my character gets bullied a lot in high school and in the movie, that wasn't really the case. When you work on a good team, everybody acts similarly. Everybody gets along and doing and sharing times with the same resources and doing the same task and because our team was so small and we had such a time crunch, it wouldn't have made very good movie if everybody was portrayed more accurately. You wouldn't have wanted to see six hours of us working on the robot every day.

Jose Cardenas: A good movie, one worth seeing.

Christian Arcega: Oh, yeah. You had to include some of that general dynamics. Very happy about it. We think about the movie project, six guys on this team. They are going to turn somebody into a girl. Somebody is going to get turned into the girl. We were all much more pleased with -- I'm sure he was more pleased about getting turned into Dr. FREDERICO Cameron -

Dr. Alan Cameron: I -- both Freddie and I are married. We didn't have girlfriends at the time, but that is part of Hollywood.

Jose Cardenas: Almost out of time. What has all of this meant to you? It has been a long journey, a lot of steps along the way. What kind of impact has it had?

Lorenzo Santillan:Well, it has given me an opportunity to go to college, to change my life for the better, and to have an education. And now that I have had the opportunity to go to college and graduate, I have experienced real-world, working in a restaurant. End of the day, I love cooking. And you can see scenes of me in the movie --

Jose Cardenas: Culinary school.

Lorenzo Santillan:A tribute to that. And I think that now I want to open up my own business and I need some help. So I have a web site set up, Lorenzo's dream dot COM and I want to ask people to help me out start it up.

Christian Arcega: I am in a similar situation. I haven't been -- doing a project to go back to school in the fall. I still want to be an engineer.

Jose Cardenas: It is a great story. We are pleased we have had a chance to be a part of it. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Hopefully you get a lot of people watching.

Jose Cardenas: And that's our show for tonight. From all of us here at eight and "Horizonte," thank you for watching. I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening. MM

Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Captioning Performed by LNS Captioning www.lnscaptioning.com

Dr. Allan Cameron:Team Coach, Carl Hayden Robotics Team; Cristian Arcega:Graduate, Carl Hayden High School; Lorenzo Santillan:Graduate, Carl Hayden High School;

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