Gambia’s FIRST Global Team that was denied entrance to the United States for a robotics competition has now been granted visas.
The news that an all girl team from Afghanistan has been denied visas to the United States in order to participate in the first annual FIRST Global Challenge has been circulating throughout the major news organizations recently. However, this isn’t the only country whose team has been denied visas to the United States. The Gambian FIRST Global Robotics team has also been denied visas.
For those who aren’t familiar with the FIRST Global Challenge, it is a new robotics competition consisting of one robotics team from each country, of which over 150 are participating. The competition is being run by FIRST Global, part of the larger FIRST Robotics organization. The competition will be held this year from July 16th - 18th in Washington, DC. There will be 40 African countries with teams representing them in this year’s competition. The Gambian national team is made up of five talented teenagers, both boys and girls.
The Gambian team was able to apply again and successfully obtain another interview. This time, the interviewers asked the teens questions about robotics. All five members have been granted visas and will now participate in the competition, however their mentor, Moctar Darboe, the Director for Science, Technology at the Ministry of Education in Gambia was not granted a visa and therefore will not be traveling with the team. However their mentor is still proud of the team and knows that they are promoting STEM for Gambia.
The Gambian team was relying on FIRST Global to cover their travel expenses, and though the money is tight, a spokesperson for FIRST Global has said that they will do their best to get the Gambian team to Washington, DC for the competition.
It is a shame that both Gambia and Afghanistan, two countries that weren’t on President Trump’s travel ban, had so much trouble getting visas to attend an educational competition. But I know that I am very grateful that both the Afghanistan and Gambian teams will be competing this year in the FIRST Global Challenge.