It was brought to my attention that FIRST Global Championship Teams Afghanistan and Gambia were denied entry into the United States to compete in the FIRST Global Championship. Here’s a Forbes article on Team Afghanistan.
For a bit of background, the FIRST Global Championship “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” (FIRST Global)
Team Afghanistan is an all-girls team made up of six girls from Herat, Afghanistan. These girls are hardworking individuals and a true inspiration to all girls in FIRST robotics.
Their building process had been cut short: their parts had been held in customs for months during the Spring due to rising fears of ISIS’ use of robots on the war zone. Instead of giving up, “the girls built their their own homemade motorized robotic machines while they waited for customs to clear their parts” like the one in the image above.
“To interview for their visas, the girls risked a 500 mile trek cross-country to the American embassy in Kabul – the site of several recent suicide attacks and one deadly truck bomb in early June that killed at least 90 people. Despite the recent violence, the teenagers braved the trip to the country's capital not once, but twice, hoping a second round of interviews might help secure their 7-day visas after the team was rejected on its first try. But no luck.” It is incredibly disheartening to see the girls have been denied entry into the country. Especially because robotics is so new to their country.
Although the girls will probably not be able to make the trip, they will be able to video call into the competition and watch their robot compete on the field in mid-July.
“On a recent Saturday, Afghan Robot maker Fatemah, who's 14, joined her teammates to work on the machine (and giggle a bit, too.) She says she enjoys working with robots, that feeling of making something brand new. Speaking in her native Persian through a translator, Fatemah says ‘we want to show the world we can do it, we just need a chance.’”
To support the teams in order to compete, see FGC Team USA’s post here.
To sign the petition to try to get the US to reconsider their decision and let Team Afghan into the United States, click here.