In 2004, 4 Mexican American high school students from an impoverished neighbourhood of West Phoenix, Arizona entered a college level national underwater robotics competition and won, beating elite institutions including MIT.
In a sense, it is a David vs. Goliath story, but perhaps more importantly, it’s a story of illegal immigrants - the status held by 3 of the 4 students. Davis paints a life outside the restrictions of the law, but also excluded from its protection. The anxiety of deportation is ever present, making even a school field trip a test of nerves for the students, parents, and teachers, wondering at the sight of any law enforcer if that would be the prelude to a deportation.
For illegal immigrants, physical and social mobility isn’t a right. After the competition, while the members of rival teams secured promising professional engineering careers, the main characters joined the army (after deporting himself), went to college, became a line cook, and a janitor.
While the protection of incumbent citizens’ opportunities and privileges are necessary and often justifiable, Davis wonders if a mutually beneficial path could exist for the newcomers who have shown the ability and willingness to contribute to the new society where they’ve come to call home?