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The Whiz Kids of Robotics

You might remember the story of four young Latino men from Carl Hayden High School who built an underwater robot named "Stinky" in 2004. They stunned the nation when Stinky kicked MIT's lame robot's ass in a college-level competition in California — not once, but twice.

The foursome quickly became media darlings. Four years later, the team continues to excel, but some things have changed. On the upside, the team is recruiting more young girls to learn about building robots and the girls have been kicking metallic ro-booty. At a recent competition earlier this year in California, the girls' robot, "Virginia's Dream," made it to the finals.

Coach Allan Cameron says, "We named the robot Virginia after a friend of ours from North High. She was an honors science student who was deported last year. She was dropped off in Mexico alone. She barely speaks Spanish. The name is an obvious reference to the DREAM Act. We believe students should be given a chance to prove their skills in school. We don't ask them where they are from."

That brings us to the downside of this update. Cameron and fellow coach Fredi Laavardi explain that the Carl Hayden Falcon Robotics Team can no longer compete in the same college-level competitions where the students once devoured MIT. That competition has since moved to Canada — making it difficult for some of Carl Hayden's talented Latino science students who might not be legal citizens (like their friend Virginia) to travel out of the country.

But the Falcon Robotics Team is known as the smart underdogs that triumph. So the team helped start a national competition held right here in the Valley.

And though they continue to recruit Latina and Latino students across the state into the fabulous brainiac freak show cult of the automaton, other just as fabulous people continue to pay attention to these rising stars of super-dork land.

Screenwriters from actress Salma Hayek's production company Ventana Azul watched from the stands and cheered on Virginia's Dream at a California competition earlier this year. Turns out, the writers were mainly there to help research some final script changes. Hayek's production company could begin filming the movie version of the Carl Hayden robotics team's story sometime this year.

 
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