Nat’l PTA & HHF Screen Film “Underwater Dreams”

Alberto Avalos

Innovation and Technology Program Manager

New feature film tells epic story of four Latino teens that built an underwater robot and beat engineering powerhouse MIT in robotics competition

Austin, TX – (June 12, 2014) The National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA) and Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) hosted a screening of the feature film Underwater Dreams, a new documentary film by award-winning filmmaker Mary Mazzio and narrated by actor Michael Peña. The film chronicles the compelling and inspirational story of four teenage boys, the sons of Mexican immigrants, who entered a sophisticated underwater robotics competition, going up against the likes of engineering powerhouse MIT – and winning.  The screening took place during the NPTA’s Annual National Convention on Saturday, June 21, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m., at the Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D, in Austin, TX (for a trailer click https://vimeo.com/97377301).

“This important film’s message is in direct alignment with HHF’s mission and belief that we need to encourage youth to reach their potential and innovate under any circumstance,” said Jose Antonio Tijerino, President of HHF, NPTA Board Member, and Diversity Committee Member for PTA.  “This is a story about what youth are capable of when they are challenged to solve problems and explore ideas.  This story is what America was built on and what America needs to move forward — innovation.  We need to leverage all of the talent our great country has to offer including the youngest, fastest growing and promising segment of our population — Latinos.  We strongly believe that Latinos can fill the skills gap crisis we are facing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and this film showcases the talent that is available.  We appreciate the National PTA and President Otha Thorton for working with us to host this screening and thank Mary Mazzio for telling this inspiring story.”

Mazzio is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and Olympic athlete. Her previous films include The Apple Pushers (about food deserts and immigrant street card vendors), TEN9EIGHT, which tells the stories of inner-city teen entrepreneurs, and A Hero for Daisy, which chronicles the 1976 protest by Yale women athletes that changed American college sports forever.  For more about her production company:  www.50eggs.com/about-50-eggs/

The story of Underwater Dreams begins when two energetic high school science teachers, on a whim, decided to enter their high school, a Title I school where most of the students live in poverty, into a sophisticated underwater robotics competition sponsored by the NASA and the Office of Naval Research, among others. Only four boys signed up for the competition, but once assembled, with enthusiasm and verve, they started calling oceanic engineers for design help. They were advised that their underwater robot would require glass syntactic flotation foam. Short on money, all they could afford was PVC pipe from Home Depot andsome duct tape.

After a few test runs of their robot (aptly named Stinky), the team was confident that they would not come in last at the event, so they all piled into a beat up van to head to the competition.  The boys entered the main pool area, seeing college teams in matching gear, with robots sponsored by big companies. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, the boys put Stinky in the water for a test run.  Only the PVC did not hold up. The robot leaked. And sunk.

The boys put their heads together and hilariously came up with brilliant solutions.  Fast forward to a shocking result – this rag-tag high school team of undocumented Mexican boys did what no one thought possible, they beat MIT and other Goliaths in their path. The competition, however, was only the beginning. These boys forged a legacy that could not have been imagined. A legacy of aspiration.  Of activism.  Of dreamers.

AMC Theatres will release Underwater Dreams theatrically on July 11th when it will be available for guests at AMC Burbank in Los Angeles and AMC Empire 25 in New York. In addition, beginning July 19, AMC will host community screenings free of charge for schools, non-profits and other communities whose members would be inspired and entertained by this movie. Requests for community screenings can be submitted via the film’s website:  www.UnderwaterDreamsFilm.com or by email requests@50eggs.com.