An all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan returns home Thursday after winning a silver medal for "courageous achievement" at a robotics competition in Washington, DC. The team competed in FIRST Global, an international robotics challenge, but they almost didn't make it. They arrived in Washington early Saturday, just in time for the beginning of the competition Sunday. The US Embassy in Kabul denied their visas twice. President Donald Trump intervened personally to allow the six girls into the country. He also intervened to allow a team from Gambia to enter.
The US State Department did not not give a reason for denying the girls' visas, but President Trump's travel ban executive order and other policies have called for restricting travel from some countries in the Middle East and Africa. Teams from 157 countries participated in the competition.
The Afghan team also met Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, at the competition. The girls range in age from 14 to 16 and are from Herat, a city in western Afghanistan near the border of Iran. Their robot can recognize and sort balls of different colors.
About FIRST Global
FIRST Global organizes a yearly international robotics challenge to ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among the more than two billion youths across the world. The not-for-profit public charity provides the framework for an “olympics”-style robotics challenge where one team from every nation is invited to participate in a global robotics event that builds bridges between high school students with different backgrounds, languages, religions, and customs. By bringing these future STEM leaders together in an engaging and collaborative competition that drives home the importance, excitement, and applicability of STEM education, FIRSTGlobal inspires students to learn the skills they will need to make the discoveries their parents and grandparents would consider miracles, impossibilities, or just plain science fiction.*
*From FIRST Global's website