Spare Parts

by

Joshua Davis

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Spare Parts can help.

Cristian Arcega Character Analysis

One of the four students who compete in the MATE competition as a part of the Carl Hayden robotics club, along with Oscar, Lorenzo, and Luis. Cristian is the brains of the operation. He grew up in Mexico as a skinny kid with allergies, and so he mostly stayed indoors and took apart any technology he could get his hands on. When he is five years old, Cristian’s family drives across the U.S. border. He struggles in elementary school, but when he starts to pick up the language, he quickly excels in every class. Cristian joins the robotics club as a freshman, and he takes the lead on the scientific calculations and programs that need to go into making the robot (though sometimes his ideas about how to build the robot are too expensive or outlandish to be feasible). After the robotics competition and he graduates from high school, Cristian also attends Arizona State University. But when his tuition increases, he is unable to receive the same support from the school that Oscar does and he is forced to drop out. At the end of the book, Cristian is working at Home Depot and inventing things in his room at night. His story is placed in direct contrast to Oscar, and also to the students on MIT’s robotics team. Even though Cristian has just as much intelligence and talent as they do, the failures of the immigration system mean his promise is largely wasted.

Cristian Arcega Quotes in Spare Parts

The Spare Parts quotes below are all either spoken by Cristian Arcega or refer to Cristian Arcega. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of Spare Parts published in 2014.
Introduction Quotes

There were teams from across the country, including students from MIT, who were sponsored by ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded company. The Latino kids were from Carl Hayden Community High School in West Phoenix.

Related Symbols: Stinky the Robot
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

As a NASA employee, she had become accustomed to working with engineers who conformed to a sort of industry standard: white, well educated, conservative clothes. These four teenagers standing in front of her signaled that the future looked different.

Related Symbols: Stinky the Robot
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
One Quotes

I've got to create something that doesn't compete with other science centers; it's got to compete with the World Series and the Super Bowl. I’ve got to find a way to make science and technology cool.

Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
Two Quotes

The whole point was to give the guys a chance to accomplish something beyond what they thought possible. But if they showed up at the event and failed utterly, it would only reinforce the impression that they didn't belong in the contest in the first place. That could leave a kid such as Lorenzo with a permanent sense of inferiority.

Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

For Lorenzo, the robotics team was like a new family. In some respects, Fredi and Allan were surrogate parents, constantly advising him and pushing him to do better. […] A team spirit had developed. Lorenzo wasn't the only one sitting in the front row of his classes.

Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

Fredi was impressed. It was a practical, cheap, and ingenious solution. […]

“You did it,” Fredi said, clapping Lorenzo on the shoulder.

Lorenzo responded with a big smile. “I did it.”

Related Characters: Lorenzo Santillan (speaker), Fredi Lajvardi (speaker), Oscar Vazquez, Cristian Arcega
Related Symbols: Stinky the Robot
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

“It needs a name,” Lorenzo said.
Oscar remembered Lorenzo’s choking on the glue fumes and suggested, “Why don’t we call it Stinky?”

Related Characters: Oscar Vazquez (speaker), Lorenzo Santillan (speaker), Cristian Arcega, Luis Aranda
Related Symbols: Stinky the Robot
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

The group also offered some of the same benefits of being in a gang. Now that he hung out with Luis on campus, Lorenzo found that other students were less likely to make fun of him.

Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Three Quotes

It reminded them that they were doing something they had never done before. In Phoenix, they were called illegal aliens and pegged as criminals. They were alternately viewed as American, Mexican, or neither. Now, for a moment, they were simply teenagers at a robotics competition by the ocean.

Related Symbols: Stinky the Robot
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:

Stinky represented this low-tech approach to engineering. But that was exactly what had impressed the judges.

Related Symbols: Stinky the Robot
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
Four Quotes

“If the really long list of immigrant inventors who have made this country and the world a much better place is to stop here and now, we will also likely become the newest declining nation,” one reader commented.

Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

In reality, life is more complicated. The attention paid to the team as a result of their victory coincided with a backlash against immigrants in Arizona.

Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Spare Parts LitChart as a printable PDF.
Spare Parts PDF

Cristian Arcega Character Timeline in Spare Parts

The timeline below shows where the character Cristian Arcega appears in Spare Parts. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
On June 25, 2004, Cristian Arcega, Lorenzo Santillan, Oscar Vazquez, and Luis Aranda stand in a classroom at the University... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
...program), questions the four students about their robot, asking how they made the laser work. Cristian, the team’s science wizard, answers the questions rapidly and impressively. (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
...Oscar answers as the team’s de facto leader. Oscar is seventeen (two years older than Cristian and Lorenzo) and has been serving in Carl Hayden’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Cristian answers most of Swean and Spence’s questions, but Spence also notes that Lorenzo and Oscar... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...pulse-width modulation, and it is a technique that allows them to control the robot digitally. Cristian is amazed that Luis answered the question right. (full context)
One
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Davis then turns to Cristian’s childhood, growing up in Mexicali, Mexico. He is a small, skinny boy who prefers to... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
In 1994, when Cristian is four, his father Juan travels to the United States and finds work in Arizona.... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
In December, Cristian starts elementary school. His biggest obstacle is that he doesn’t speak any English. He doesn’t... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Cristian is in an English-learner program but continues to struggle. He receives straight Fs that year.... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
That summer, the family moves to a trailer on the outskirts of town. Cristian has allergies and so he decides to stay indoors most of the time, watching TV.... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
When Cristian is nine years old, the family moves to a trailer park in West Phoenix. Juan... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
The trailer park that Cristian and his family move to feels like a huge step up, primarily because there isn’t... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Over the next few years, Cristian finds that watching Bob Vila has improved his English. By fourth grade he is fluent;... (full context)
Mentorship Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
In eighth grade, Cristian meets Ms. Hildebrandt, the chemistry teacher. She encourages him to choose an independent project that... (full context)
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
Cristian lights the rocket’s engine. It immediately melts the fishing line and shoots across the soccer... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
At the end of eighth grade, Cristian starts to think about high school. He visits North High School, which has an international... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
When Cristian starts at Carl Hayden, he signs up for all honors courses. He skips freshman science... (full context)
Mentorship Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
Cristian then meets Fredi Lajvardi, the program manager of the marine science program. At the beginning... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Mentorship Theme Icon
...Fredi simply told students to find something fun to build or an idea to test. Cristian hears about Fredi from a fellow freshman named Michael Hanck, who is building robots in... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...the federal government isn’t doing enough to turn back Mexicans. And so, for kids like Cristian and Lorenzo, getting good grades might have been the least of their problems. (full context)
Mentorship Theme Icon
...however. In 2002, he stops coaching and shuts down the electric car program. In 2003, Cristian, Oscar, and Lorenzo walk into his science classroom. (full context)
Mentorship Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
...science class as a freshman and joined the team the same year. Michael suggests that Cristian speak to Fredi about joining. (full context)
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
Cristian steps into Fredi’s classroom in May 2003, after the FIRST competition has already taken place... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Mentorship Theme Icon
Cristian sees Lorenzo hanging around the lab and assumes he’s just another loud jokester. But Fredi... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Mentorship Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
In the fall of 2003, Lorenzo and Cristian both sign up for the 7:00 a.m. robotics club class. Together with Michael Hanck, they... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
At the pumpkin field, neither Cristian nor Oscar miss Lorenzo much. Both of them think that there’s no excuse for being... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
...that it is nice that the team seems to want his help. He doesn’t know Cristian or Lorenzo, but he does know Oscar, who is friendly to him despite his intimidating... (full context)
Two
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Mentorship Theme Icon
...cousin to donate to his underwater-robotics competition, but she thinks that he’s joking and refuses. Cristian phones aunts and uncles in California, who say they’ll think about it but never send... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Lorenzo thinks of the simplest approach: a length of string. He and Cristian go back and forth about how to make sure that the string can reach the... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Oscar agrees that this could work; Lorenzo beams with pride. Cristian points out that it won’t work for depth, though, because there’s nothing at the bottom... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
...to explain that it doesn’t work. The reading is always off by 30 percent. But Cristian, listening in, realizes that that’s due to the index of refraction: it takes the laser... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Mentorship Theme Icon
...class and does all his homework. When he can’t figure a question out, he asks Cristian to explain the theory. Cristian isn’t a great teacher—he doesn’t have a ton of patience—but... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
...Oscar positions the thermocouple, the range finder, and the pincer in their model. Then, he, Cristian, and Lorenzo strategize about how to build the real ROV. Metal will be more compact,... (full context)
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
Luis drives to Home Depot and buys twenty dollars’ worth of PVC pipe. Luis, Cristian, Oscar, and Lorenzo gather in the robotics closet. Cristian sketches out the ROV and calculates... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
...limit voltage loss. Lorenzo says that the idea is “badass.” Oscar is nervous, but when Cristian says that if they can’t waterproof a case to hold the battery they shouldn’t be... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
...is the hardest: extracting a liquid sample from inside a barrel while hovering. Oscar and Cristian are pretty sure the task will be impossible, so they assign it to Lorenzo. Other... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
...they have bought needs to be cut, and so the team buys a pipe cutter. Cristian, Lorenzo, and Oscar discover that they’re not strong enough to cut the pipe. They have... (full context)
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
...month after the students begin the ROV project, Dean Kamen releases his annual FIRST challenge. Cristian, Oscar, Lorenzo, and Luis are part of a larger team participating in the FIRST challenge... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
When Cristian tells his mother Leticia about the trip, she is not thrilled, worrying about what happened... (full context)
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
...competition begins, the Carl Hayden team’s robot freezes in the middle of an early match. Cristian suspects that the most likely issue is that the battery is not sitting right in... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
...they hadn’t tried to fit the briefcase when doing their dry runs. Everyone is disappointed. Cristian says that they have to start over. (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
...them it’s not a problem and marvels at the unusual crew filing into her facility: Cristian, Luis, Lorenzo, Oscar, Fredi, Allan, and Michael Hanck, who is there to help pilot the... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
...they plug everything in, the two monitors light up and Stinky starts coming to life. Cristian is in charge of the robot’s up and down movements, while Michael is in charge... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
...it’s harder to get it back out because the tether is threaded through the hoop. Cristian and Michael try to drive it back, but Stinky begins to spin erratically before slamming... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Cristian and Michael try piloting the robot through the hoop again, but it veers off a... (full context)
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
Back in the robotics closet, Cristian reexamines every connection in the briefcase. Some of the cables have been damaged, causing the... (full context)
Three
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Luis stays by the pool while Cristian, Oscar and Lorenzo monitor Stinky on their video screens from the control tent. Cristian notes... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Oscar and Cristian move on to measuring the submarine. They are able to hook the tape measure onto... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
...doing it last. They steer Stinky over to the “barrel”—a one-gallon paint can—and Oscar and Cristian are able to get their sampling pipe into the can. Lorenzo can’t believe it, and... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
...the stage. But Merrill stops them: they have also won the Technical Writing Award. Even Cristian is surprised. In his mind, there was no possibility that a bunch of ESL students... (full context)
Four
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...feels stuck. He has thought about college, but he doesn’t know how to afford it. Cristian has a similar problem. He dreamed of going to college, but when the air conditioning... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Allan and Fredi urge Cristian to apply to MIT, but his family wants to keep him close and the school... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Midway through Cristian’s freshman year, an Arizona state senator sponsors Proposition 300. The law seeks to prevent state... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Proposition 300 passes in November 2006 with 71% support. Cristian’s tuition quadruples as a result. Unable to pay it, he decides to drop out. He... (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Proposition 300 drives Cristian out of college, but Oscar had already distinguished himself at the university, and a variety... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...against immigrants in Arizona. Propositions 200 and 300 had a direct impact on Oscar and Cristian. Oscar ultimately graduated from college; Cristian did not. (full context)
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...deferring the deportation of immigrants who would have qualified for the DREAM Act. Lorenzo and Cristian apply for protection under the order, which buys them temporary safety. But, as Davis writes,... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...at the federal courthouse during the week; on the weekends he caters events with Lorenzo. Cristian lives at home and continues to invent things in his room. (full context)