The Essence of Opportunity

You catch Nightline Friday night? I did. I was blown away, too.

I rarely waste my time watching the news anymore, but I was flipping around and caught quite a story. It seems a bunch of scrappy kids from Phoenix kicked ass in the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center’s Remotely Operated Vehicle Competition.

So what? Well these kids were in high school and lived in a poor neighborhood that offered painfully few resources. Oh, and they were undocumented immigrants, too, so they had everything going against them. And who did they defeat in this national science competition? MIT! Just absolutely wonderful. I was glued to the TV last night watching these kids tell their story with more than a little humility. At every step they demonstrated the essence of opportunity and taught MIT a lesson — that innovation disrupts out of nowhere.

If you missed the Nightline program, go read Wired Magazine’s take on these guys — La Vida Robot: How four underdogs from the mean streets of Phoenix took on the best from M.I.T. in the national underwater bot championship. You’ll love it. It’s a really nice piece. The tampon story in there is great, too.

One of the best exchanges in the article is when one of the kids was going through the oral presentation part of the competition in front of a tough judge, who was questioning the use of, ah, “flip charts”:

“Why don’t you have a PowerPoint display?” he asked.

“PowerPoint is a distraction,” Cristian replied. “People use it when they don’t know what to say.”

“And you know what to say?”

“Yes, sir.”

Oh, my God … I wish I could have seen the look on that judge’s face after that! Too sweet … “a distraction” … that’s great.

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