Friday, April 01, 2005

The Ultimate Resource

Anyone who opposes immigration should read this astounding story from Wired magazine about four "undocumented" (i.e., illegal) Mexican immigrant kids at an Arizona high school who entered a national underwater robotics competition—and won, beating teams from MIT and other universities. This is an inspiring illustration of Julian Simon's point that the "ultimate resource" is human talent.

"La Vida Robot," Joshua Davis, Wired, April 2005

"The school buildings are mostly drab, late 50s-era boxes. The front lawn is nothing but brown scrub and patches of dirt. The class photos beside the principal's office tell the story of the past four decades. In 1965, the students were nearly all white, wearing blazers, ties, and long skirts. Now the school is 92 percent Hispanic. Drooping, baggy jeans and XXXL hoodies are the norm.... 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."