Parents' Guide to

Underwater Dreams

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Inspiring story about an underdog high school robotics team.

Movie NR 2014 85 minutes
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This documentary is a feel-good movie reminiscent of the spirit of Stand and Deliver and Lean on Me. Those movies, like this one, show how poor, disenfranchised students can flourish when they're encouraged and supported instead of demeaned and overlooked. Interviews with the original 2004 crew and their advisors reveal how the team entered the college division because failure against M.I.T. was more tolerable and understandable than failure against other high school teams. Mazzio spends a lot of time on the M.I.T. team and even digs into the personal lives of the two Carl Hayden team teachers, but it's the immigrant students who are the most fascinating. It's surprisingly emotional to see men in their 20s admit that, until high school, they had no idea they could make something of themselves in the world, that in a world of negative stereotypes and messages, their robotics instructors stand out as rare beacons of hope and encouragement.

A little more than halfway through the film, Underwater Dreams changes its focus from the 2004 robotics competition to how the outcome affected the Carl Hayden community of Latino students, many of whom are undocumented. Interviewing various renowned engineers and robotics entrepreneurs, including Dean Kamen, the creator of the Segway, Underwater Dreams makes a case for why these Carl Hayden alums deserve a chance at the American dream, regardless of their citizenship status.

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