The four Carl Hayden students are extremely self-motivated and support each other while they complete their robotics project, but they certainly don’t achieve their success without help. Along the way, they have several mentors that guide them to their success against some of the top schools in the country. Mentorship not only provides the Carl Hayden students with the lessons and knowledge they need to succeed, but also the inspiration and the confidence to follow their passions and live up to their potential.
Many of the characters in the book have early role models who encourage their successes and give them the tools to follow their aspirations. Cristian has good grades throughout middle school but is largely bored with the work until his chemistry teacher, Ms. Hildebrandt, inspires his first experiment when she suggests that he conduct an independent project. He tests different fin designs on a rocket, and even though the experiment is relatively unsuccessful and the rocket explodes, he becomes so enthusiastic about the work that he immediately tries to find another experiment. Oscar similarly finds his own mentor early in high school: Major Glenn Goins, the leader of the ROTC program at the school. Goins’s instruction gives him the discipline and the leadership he needs to succeed not only in the ROTC program, but also in all aspects of his life and eventually on the robotics team. This is proven when Oscar motivates the other students on the team, and runs practice drills on tasks like putting their robot together and setting up their command tent at the competition. Fredi, the teacher in charge of the robotics program, also had his own mentor growing up: Ann Justus, his high school science teacher. She emphasized hands-on learning and inspired him to build ever more impressive hovercrafts in successive years. Fredi graduated from high school and went on to college, but comes back to help younger students in her class. Justus then encourages him to become a teacher instead of fulfilling his parents’ expectations and going to medical school. This kind of permission and support is what allows Fredi to find something that makes him truly happy. Through all of these relationships, the book implicitly argues for the power of mentorship to push young people to believe in their own abilities.
Fredi, in turn, becomes the best kind of mentor for the Carl Hayden students: he doesn’t give them all of the answers, but he creates an enthusiasm for their work and provides them with the necessary support to succeed. Fredi’s philosophy in the classroom is based on encouraging the students and getting them excited to learn. He doesn’t lecture, instead giving them hands-on projects in which they can feel personally invested. Fredi particularly invests in Lorenzo, whom Fredi sees as slightly adrift. When Lorenzo takes Introduction to Marine Science, he starts hanging around Fredi’s classroom. Fredi teaches him to feed the fish in the room and clean their tanks. Lorenzo had never had this kind of responsibility before, and is amazed that someone entrusts him even with the lives of a handful of fish. When Fredi sees Lorenzo’s grades drop as a result of his involvement in the robotics club, he tells him he must bring his GPA up in order to stay, thus ensuring his success in multiple aspects of his life. For Fredi, giving the kids the ability to learn and do well is more important than winning. He expresses concerns to Allan, another teacher helping out with the club, that it’s important that the students view the experience as valuable and also have the confidence to know that they can compete with other teams. Fredi also makes sure to give the students the tools to overcome their obstacles: he encourages them to reach out to people in order to raise money, and to get advice from experts so that they have a foundation of knowledge and resources to build their robot.
Fredi and Allan’s successes don’t end with Lorenzo, Oscar, Cristian, and Luis: in 2005 and 2006, the robotics team swells to more than fifty members. They place third and second in the MATE robotics competition, respectively, beating MIT again both times. This continued success proves that teachers in many ways become a child’s most valuable resource, because they not only instill them with knowledge, but spark an interest in learning and give them the capacity to believe in themselves. In the end, it is Fredi’s original desire for the students simply to go beyond what they think their capabilities are that gives them a pathway to win the entire competition.
Mentorship Quotes in Spare Parts
The chief lesson Lorenzo learned was that it was important to be creative. Hugo wasn’t running a normal mechanic’s shop, with a wall full of tools and shelves filled with supplies. He had little money, a small set of hand tools, and his ingenuity. To survive, he had to come up with fresh ideas and adapt.
The music was part of his educational philosophy. Fredi had always focused on getting kids excited to learn.
Lorenzo felt his father didn’t have any respect for him, Hugo wouldn’t let him use the tools in the driveway, and the kids around school mocked him for his strange looks. Now a teacher was entrusting him with the lives of a handful of fish. To most people, it might not seem like a lot, but to Lorenzo it was unprecedented.
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.
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.
To Fredi, this was a battle for the future of an unusual but talented kid. He appreciated Lorenzo's offbeat ideas and felt that the long-haired goofball had genuine talent. But Lorenzo was caught in the tractor-beam pull of poverty and low expectations.
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.”