Coming soon to the big screen: The Latino students whose robot beat MIT’s
Hollywood loves an underdog. It also loved robots. “Spare Parts,” which will debut on the big screen Jan. 16, has both.
The "based on a true story" movie — and a book by the same name — tells the 10-year-old tale of four Arizona students, three of them undocumented, who built an underwater robot using spare car parts that went on to beat MIT’s in a NASA competition. But that wasn’t the end of the four students’ stories.
According to Wired, which reported the story ten years ago and followed up recently, the four students — Lorenzo Santillan, Luis Aranda, Oscar Vazquez and Cristian Arcega — received a cumulative $90,000 in scholarships to attend higher education, money that was sorely needed as three of the four students were not eligible for federal aid because of their status. A decade later, two of the four — Santillan and Aranda — have their own Phoenix catering firm after Santillan graduated from culinary school; Vazquez, an Arizona State University grad and U.S. Army veteran (after receiving amnesty with help from U.S. Senator Dick Durbin) is now a mechanical foreman who works on railroads; and Arcega didn’t have enough funds to get through college after Arizona raised tuition for undocumented immigrants, so now he works and experiments with product ideas.
Now the four will be recognized in a dramatized version of their own stories, directed by Sean McNamara, written by Elissa Matsueda, and starring George Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis, Marisa Tomei and Carlos Penavega.