An all-girl team from the city of Herat in Afghanistan has been invited to the United States to participate in the prestigious FIRST Robotic Competition. Despite great difficulty in obtaining both supplies and instruction, the girls have worked hard to design, construct, and program a robot for the competition. With the help of the first female tech CEO in the nation, they’re polished their skills and prepared. And they’ve literally risked their lives to be a part of the contest.
To interview for their visas, the girls risked a 500 mile trek cross-country to the American embassy in Kabul – the site of several recent suicide attacks and one deadly truck bomb in early June that killed at least 90 people.
Their application for a visa? Denied. The girls even made a second journey to revisit the embassy. Denied again. There is still a chance that their robot is coming to America.
Back home in Herat, Team Afghanistan is racing against the clock, putting the final touches on their ball-sorting robot that will travel to the U.S. to compete against 163 other machines from around the globe. The students are screwing together joints, programming the machine's sensors, and still trying to find one chain.
Of all the teams around the world, the Afghan team is one of only two that was denied visas to travel (the other was the Gambia, which is currently occupied by a coalition of African states after a constitutional crisis in January).