Spare Parts

by

Joshua Davis

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Stinky the Robot Symbol Analysis

Stinky the Robot Symbol Icon

The four students—Oscar, Luis, Lorenzo, and Cristian—name their robot “Stinky,” and Stinky both represents the boys as underdogs and becomes a symbol of the ability for underdogs to overcome adverse odds. As implied by its name, Stinky doesn’t smell very good due to the glue holding its PVC pipes together; in comparison with robots from schools like MIT, it has a very gaudy paint job and looks, as the book’s full title implies, pretty ugly. At the same time, there are aspects of the robot that at first seem like potential disadvantages, but in reality become its greatest assets. Though it is made of cheap materials, the PVC pipes actually work perfectly because they allow the cables to run throughout the robot, and the air in the pipes give the robot extra buoyancy. The boys do not have the money or knowledge to outfit the robot with complicated mechanisms, and so instead they find simple approaches to complete the tasks, such as using a tape measure to complete a measuring task, or using a balloon to complete a task in which they must extract a liquid sample. In the end, this ingenuity and simplicity are specifically cited as the things that earn the team the Design Elegance award in the competition. Even though it doesn’t seem like Stinky belongs in the competition with the other robots, the things that make it unique are actually the things that allow it to excel—as is the case for the team as a whole.

Stinky the Robot Quotes in Spare Parts

The Spare Parts quotes below all refer to the symbol of Stinky the Robot. 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:
Two Quotes

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:
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:

But in this moment, Oscar realized that Lorenzo was intensely committed. Good engineering solutions had value. But, to Oscar, doing things that no one else wanted to do, toughing it out and being a soldier, that's what counted.

Related Characters: Oscar Vazquez, Lorenzo Santillan
Related Symbols: Stinky the Robot
Page Number: 162
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:
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Stinky the Robot Symbol Timeline in Spare Parts

The timeline below shows where the symbol Stinky the Robot appears in Spare Parts. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
...runs the Navy’s Ocean Engineering and Marine Systems program), questions the four students about their robot, asking how they made the laser work. Cristian, the team’s science wizard, answers the questions... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
While other teams had arrived with robots made with budgets of more than ten thousand dollars, these students have a plastic robot... (full context)
Two
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
...where it needs to be. Oscar compliments Lorenzo on the idea. Lorenzo says that their robot needs a name. Oscar remembers what Lorenzo said in the closet and suggests calling it... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
The students take Stinky to a nearby scuba facility called Scuba Sciences, thanking the woman who works there, Tina... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
...four video game joysticks. When 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,... (full context)
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
Luis sets Stinky in the water, but it floats too well. The team removes some extra pipes that... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
The students practice driving Stinky through a hula hoop, but it’s harder to get it back out because the tether... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Cristian and Michael try piloting the robot through the hoop again, but it veers off a second time and collides with the... (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,... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
Lorenzo, meanwhile, tries to fix some of the robot’s aesthetics. The blue glue has dripped onto the pipe, leaving blue streaks across the white... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
...Scuba Sciences, with the competition one week away. Their second session is much more successful. Stinky steers clear of the walls and responds better to the joysticks. It also takes accurate... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Mentorship Theme Icon
...is needed by the edge of the pool to manage the tether and lift the robot. (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
...but quickly crashes into a wall. He puts too much force on the joystick and Stinky nearly somersaults. They then just try to cruise around, and Oscar starts to get the... (full context)
Three
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
...night making sure that everything still works, but when they turn the power on, the robot’s thrusters refuse to reverse. After an hour, the controls mysteriously start working again. The boys... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
At nine the next morning, the team brings Stinky to a practice pool. The other teams’ robots look like works of art, with machined... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Immigration, Prejudice, and the American Dream Theme Icon
When Lorenzo sees MIT’s expensive robot, predominantly white team, and matching shirts, they look like the embodiment of power. Oscar tells... (full context)
Mentorship Theme Icon
...should get ready for their presentation and then they will have all night to fix Stinky. Allan takes them out to a bridge and instructs them to talk to anyone who... (full context)
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
...man who looks like a professor, asking if he would like to hear about their robot. He describes what it can do, and the man is impressed. He wishes them luck... (full context)
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
...wires, and they finish at 2:30 a.m. They turn the power on and test it. Stinky works. (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
...complete a safety check. They burst into action, coordinating their setup and plugging everything in. Stinky is operational. Lisa Herbert, one of the judges, checks a box on the score sheet... (full context)
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 a mockup of a piece... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
...barrel for the liquid sample, even though he had suggested doing it last. They steer Stinky over to the “barrel”—a one-gallon paint can—and Oscar and Cristian are able to get their... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Teamwork, Friendship, and Motivation Theme Icon
Mentorship Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
With Stinky back in the water, they move into the interior of the submarine. They steer inside... (full context)
Underdogs and Overcoming Odds Theme Icon
Curiosity, Creativity, and Adventure Theme Icon
...kids wonder whether they can get more cake before the ceremony finishes, Merrill announces that Stinky has captured the design award. They’re stunned. It turns out that Stinky’s low-tech approach is... (full context)