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
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.
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.
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.”
“It needs a name,” Lorenzo said.
Oscar remembered Lorenzo’s choking on the glue fumes and suggested, “Why don’t we call it Stinky?”
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.
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.
Stinky represented this low-tech approach to engineering. But that was exactly what had impressed the judges.