The True Story Behind ‘Spare Parts’

17:14 minutes

In 2004, four Arizona teenagers won the MATE Underwater Robotics competition with a rover cobbled together from PVC pipe and spare parts. Three of the four winners were undocumented and risked deportation when they traveled to Santa Barbara to win MATE’s top prize. This month, their story gets the big-screen treatment in Spare Parts, a film based on Wired editor Joshua Davis’s 2005 reporting on the team. Davis and one of the winning roboticists, Cristian Arcega, join Ira to remember “Stinky”—the team’s winning bot—and reflect on how U.S. immigration policy is affecting the next generation of aspiring engineers.

Read an excerpt from the book that inspired the movie here, and see the technical report for Stinky.

Segment Guests

Cristian Arcega

Cristian Arcega is a Falcon Robotics alumnus and winner of the 2004 MATE Underwater ROV Competition in Phoenix, Arizona.

Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis is author of Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream (FSG Originals, 2014), contributing editor at WIRED, and co-founder of Epic Magazine in San Francisco, California.

Meet the Producer

About Annie Minoff

Annie Minoff is a producer for The Journal from Gimlet Media and the Wall Street Journal, and a former co-host and producer of Undiscovered. She also plays the banjo.

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From a Destitute Phoenix School, an Underwater Robotics Team Rises

An excerpt from Joshua Davis' book "Spare Parts."

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