"La Vida Robot", true Phoenix story inspiring a Hollywood movie - New York News

"La Vida Robot", true Phoenix story inspiring a Hollywood movie

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) -

The improbable journey of four Phoenix high school students winning first place over M.I.T. in a national robotics competition is being turned into a Hollywood movie.

The movie, "La Vida Robot," is based on the 2004 Carl Hayden robotics team's efforts in a NASA-sponsored college competition. 

"We were told throughout our whole life that we were losers and we couldn't do things and here we were proving many people wrong," said Lorenzo Santillan, one of the team members.

 Their robot, made in part from PVC pipe, a milk jug, and a suitcase, beat out heavily funded teams and high-tech robots. The group credits their ingenuity and teamwork for transforming everyday items into a sophisticated machine.

"It would have been very easy for me, Lorenzo, Oscar or Luis to just say 'you know, I don't feel like doing this and just not show up.' We started with seven members only four of us were there," said Cristian Arcega, a member of the 2004 team.

The group is well aware the movie took a few Hollywood liberties. For example, the two robotics teachers, Faridodin Lajvardi and Allan Cameron, are combined into just one character. The character, "Fredi Cameron," is played by George Lopez.

The groups says the overarching theme of the movie is true to their larger than life moment: a story about defeating the odds, but also about immigration. All four students were undocumented at the time.

"I think a story like this, as an underdog story, will underline what a Latino family or what Latinos overall will contribute to society," said Santillan.

Now in their mid-twenties, only one of the former students went on to a four-year university. Cristian Arcega says his immigration status prevented him from getting scholarships and in-state tuition to help pay for school. He's attending a community college part-time, still, he says his goal is to be an engineer.

"My American dream is to find success... I've gotten taste of it [but]...you always want more," said Arcega.

"La Vida Robot" stars George Lopez, Marisa Tomei and Jamie Lee Curtis. Elissa Matsueda is the screen writer and Sean McNamara is the director. The movie is expected to be released in the fall of 2014.

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