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. —Joshua Davis —La Vida Robot (Wired)
Awesome story of hope, education, and transnational geekdom.
And how’s this for a teaser quote?
When Luis lowered Stinky into the water for their run, Lorenzo prayed to the Virgin Mary. He prayed that the tampons would work but then wondered if the Virgin got her period and whether it was appropriate for him to be praying to her about tampons. He tried to think of a different saint to pray to but couldn’t come up with an appropriate one. The whir of Stinky’s propellers brought him back to the task at hand, extracting a water sample from a submerged container.
Beautiful. Just beautiful!