Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - March 2, 2012

Curtis Wu, 'Robot Rob'

Curtis Wu, the 15-year-old winner of the young adult category, is a young man of many interests — music, theater, physics, philosophy and now, writing.

"Robot Rob," Wu's futuristic science-fiction short story, mixes some of his interests and explores humanity and its defining characteristics.

"I think that melding philosophy and science was a goal of mine and I think I was trying to do that in my story," he said. "I was interested in the idea of what differentiates humans from robots, in more than the physical mechanical way."

The story is told through the eyes of Robert, self-aware robot designed to assist a family with household duties. Robert is essentially accepted as a member of the family but struggles to communicate and find connection with them.

"Although I'm interested in their human side, I think what is eventually going to set us apart is communication," he said.

Wu, a sophomore at Palo Alto High School, is a fan of Ray Bradbury, particularly of "Fahrenheit 451."

"I thought it was interesting how he included the themes of censorship and the intricacies of a modern society," he said.

"Robot Rob" is Wu's first submission to a writing contest, and though he's interested in science, he said part of him wants to pursue a more "artsy" career.

"There's so much out there right now," he said. "It would be very difficult to make a living, but it'd be great if I could influence so many others with my ideas."

Judge's comments

Bravo! Robots with a twist. "Robot Rob" tells the very human story about a robot gone good, exploring what it is to be a thinking, talking, listening sentient being with wit, humor and imagination — all on a very special day.

— Eric Van Susteren

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