Afghan Girls Robotics Team Back in the US

On January 5, the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, who became famous after they were denied a visa to enter the U.S. for an international robotics competition in summer 2017, came back to the United States to attend, speak and exhibit their newest robot at the 4th annual Raw Science Film Festival.

The festival, which took place across Santa Barbara, California, honors films on science and technology worldwide and ensures that science experts receive public attention in popular culture. The festival created a gofundme page in order to raise money for the Afghan team’s travels to the US. Roya Mahboob, an Afghan technology entrepreneur, wrote on her Facebook page that unlike their first trip to the United States, the girls did not face any problems obtaining their visas.

In November, the Afghan Girls Robotics Team participated against 3,700 competitors and won the Entrepreneur Challenge at the Robotex Festival, which is Europe’s largest robotics event. The Entrepreneur Challenge is a new challenge at Robotex Festival where competitors must present an innovative robotic product that can solve a real-world issue. The team’s robot used solar energy to support small-scale farmers in their fields and was chosen to win by the thousands of spectators at the festival. “They are undeniably the future of Afghanistan,” said Afghanistan Ambassador in the UK Tayeb Jawad in an emailed statement after the girls’ major win.

The Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team sparked major outcry and feminist protests in July 2017 when the State Department twice refused to grant the girls’ U.S. visas. The feminist protests successfully put public pressure on the Department of Homeland Security to issue humanitarian paroles that allowed the girls to enter the country so they could compete in the First Global Challenge in Washington DC. At the robotics competition, the girls were awarded silver medals for “courageous achievement” for a robot they built in a period of two weeks, after their package of supplies was detained at the airport.

After the Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team’s success in the United States in July, more and more young girls in Afghanistan have expressed interest in becoming more involved with robotics and technology.

News Sources: New York Times 11/29/17; NPR 11/29/17, 11/30/17; Nooshawk 12/30/17; Forbes 11/29/17; Feminist Newswire 07/19/17, 07/13/17, 09/11/17

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