First-Year Dialogue | NYU Tandon School of Engineering

First-Year Dialogue

The Freshman Dialogue is a program, inspired by the educational paradigm i2e that brings innovation, invention and entrepreneurship to the academic experience at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Over the summer all incoming students read a text chosen to explore a particular theme that showcases alignment with this paradigm and the school’s mission. The First-Year Dialogue Selection for the Class of 2021 will be Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream by Joshua Davis. and the theme this year is "Transforming Engineering: Spare Parts, Determination and a Dream.”

Spare Parts is a story of hope and humanity, and a testament to how teamwork, perseverance, and a few inspiring teachers and role models can uplift and empower even those who are seemingly unreachable.

In 2004, four Latino teenagers from Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Arizona, arrived at University of California, Santa Barbara, to participate in the Marine Advanced Technoloogy Education Robotics Competition. Going up against some of the best collegiate engineers in the country (including an MIT team funded by ExxonMobil), Oscar, Cristian, Luis, and Lorenzo wowed the judges—and raised the stakes in America’s immigration debate.

Born in Mexico but raised in Arizona, they were undocumented and their team was underfunded, but thanks to the support of two enthusiastic teachers, the kids from the desert managed to build an award- winning underwater robot using scavenged parts.

Tracing their journey, including the decade after their high school triumphs, Spare Parts gives voice to a group of young men who proved to be among the most patriotic and talented students in this country—even as the country tried to kick them out.

Past First-Year Dialogue Selections:

Fall 2016:
Not Impossible: The Art and Joy of Doing What Couldn't Be Done by Mick Ebeling.
Theme: “Invention and Technology for the Good of Humanity”

Fall 2015
Text: Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley and David Kelly. 
Theme: "Innovating for Change: Engaging Locally and Globally"


For more information or questions regarding the First Year Dialogue events, please contact the Office of Student Activities via email at or call 646.997.3800.