Sunday, July 2, 2017

"U.S. denies visas for Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team"

"It's not easy to get robotics equipment through customs in Afghanistan, but that didn't deter this plucky bunch.

For months, a team of six teenage girls has been scrambling to build a ball-sorting robot that will compete in an international competition. Other teams received their raw materials in March. But the box sent from America had been held up for months amid concerns about terrorism. So the young engineers improvised, building motorized machines from household materials.

They didn't have time to waste if they were going to compete in the FIRST Global Challenge, an international robotics competition to be held in Washington, D.C., this month. Young teams from around the world face off against each other, in an effort to engage people in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
To participate, the girls from the city of Herat in western Afghanistan needed permission to travel to the United States. So, after they convinced their parents to let them go, they made the 500-mile journey to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to apply for their visas. They did this twice, even though that location was targeted by a deadly truck bomb.

Things seemed to be lining up. But then the team got some bad news: Their visa applications had been denied. Roya Mahboob, who founded Citadel software company in Afghanistan and was the country's first female technology chief executive, is one of the team's sponsors. When the girls heard the news, she said, “they were crying all the day.”
“The first time [they were rejected] it was very difficult talking with the students,” Mahboob told Mashable. “They're young and they were very upset.”
Fourteen-year-old Fatemah told Forbes, “We want to show the world we can do it; we just need a chance.”
On their competition page, the girls wrote:
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.
The State Department does not comment on specific visa denials..."

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