It is extremely difficult to get robotics equipment through customs in Afghanistan; however, this did not stop Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team from working hard and accomplishing their goals.
For months, a team of teenage girls had been working to build a ball-sorting robot that will compete in the FIRST Global Challenge, an international robotics competition to be held in Washington, D.C. last July. In the FIRST Global Challenge, young teams from around the world were to compete in an effort to engage people in STEM.
Majority of the teams enrolled in the competition had received their raw materials in March, but the box sent from America had been seized for months amid concerns about terrorism. Because of this, the girls improvised by building motorized machines from various household materials.
To participate in the FIRST Global Challenge, the girls needed permission to travel to the United States. They made the 500-mile journey to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul twice to apply for their visas, even though that location was targeted by a deadly truck bomb. Despite their journey, their visa applications had been denied. Fourteen-year-old Fatemah told Forbes, “We want to show the world we can do to; we just need a chance.” Hearing this news was heart-breaking, and unfortunately this is a common occurrence. Because of their gender and their race, girls are being put down and thwarted from pursuing their passions.
“We want to make a difference, and most breakthroughs in science, technology, and other industries normally start with the dream of a child to do something great. We want to be that child and pursue our dreams to make a difference in peoples’ lives.”
After being denied visas, the girls’ robotics team from Afghanistan made an amazing comeback. Three of the girls participated in the Entrepreneurial Challenge at the Robotex Festival in Estonia. Their challenge was to showcase a prototype that could solve a real-world problem, and that customers would want to buy. They won with a robot that could use solar energy to support small-scale farmers in their fields. The winner was chosen by the thousands of spectators who attended the event. In addition to this, the girls only had two weeks to build the robot because a shipment of parts was delayed. Despite this setback, they also won a silver medal for courageous achievement.
Their accomplishment represents hundreds of hours of dedication, determination, hope, and passion. These girls represent everything we should strive to become as young leaders in STEM. Everyone should see the world devoid of racial barriers and to judge others based on the quality of their character–not on the color of their skin, ethnic background, gender, or socioeconomic status. The STEM industry is heavily man-dominated, but these girls are showing at a young age that they can build something incredible. Everyone deserves a chance.