The Story of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team

Posted by on Sep 1, 2021 in People and Culture, Top Stories, World

In 2017, the Afghan girl’s robotics team made headlines worldwide when they won a silver medal at the first Global Challenge international robotics competition in Washington, D.C. Now, with Afghanistan under Taliban control, the girls have managed to flee the country to safety. Here, btw takes a closer look at their story.

Making Their Mark

In 2017, six girls from Afghanistan were ready to compete against 157 other nations in a robotics competition in the United States. But they were told they would not be allowed to participate because they didn’t have the necessary visas to enter the U.S. At the last minute, President Trump stepped in and allowed them to participate. This delay meant that they had only two weeks to build their robot, while teams from other nations had four months. At the competition, the girls won a silver medal for courageous achievement for how well they overcame these challenging circumstances.

Last year, the girls made headlines again. This timethey used car parts to make inexpensive ventilators during the COVID-19 crisis. At the time, Afghanistan had just 400 ventilators for a population of 38.9 million people. The girls felt a special connection to this cause because they were from the western province of Herat, which was where the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country. They set about making ventilators for a fraction of what they would have cost otherwise. Their initial prototype used a motor from a used Toyota Corolla and a chain drive from a Honda motorcycle. In recognition of their achievements, the team was listed in Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 list for 2020.

Fleeing to Safety

Today, the team consists of ten girls, aged 15 to 19, and their teacher, who is 25. In a country where less than thirty percent of the female population is literate, the team is widely viewed as a beacon of hope for the potential of female education in Afghanistan. But recent weeks have seen the rapid encroachment of the Taliban, an extremist organization that may strip Afghan girls and women of many of their rights, including their right to an education.

Three days before the Taliban overtook the capital city of Kabul, the team members reached out to Qatar, a neighboring country, for help. In a race against time, the Qatar government supplied visas for the girls and provided them with an aircraft. The team met with Qatar’s ambassador in a secure location, and from there they were evacuated. Most of the team is currently in Doha, the capital city of Qatar, though some were also flown to Mexico. They will be permitted to remain where they are if they wish, though they have received offers of scholarships from many universities around the globe, including some in the United States.

Dig Deeper Learn more about the scholarship offers that have been given to the members of this team. Which universities have offered financial aid? Use Internet resources to find out more. Write a short paragraph about what you learn.