Six teenage girls from Afghanistan planned to come to the US to compete in the First Global Challenge robotics competition this month, but those plans were canceled after they were denied visas to enter the country. Forbes reports that the girls traveled 500 miles to Kabul for their visa interviews, and that their robot’s supplies were held in customs for months.
This kit, which the competition organizers issued to every participating team, included different components, like brackets, extrusions, fastening hardware, hardware adaptors, bearings, wheels of different sizes, gears, pulleys, motors, servos, and sprockets. The State Department feared ISIS might try to use these parts on the battlefield, which is why they delayed sending them to the girls.
Still, the team built a ball-sorting robot on a shortened timeline; their kit only arrived three weeks ago. More than 100 other teams have entered the competition, including participants from Iraq, Iran, and Sudan. The girls’ robot will still compete, but the team will only be able to watch over a video call from their homes in Herat, Afghanistan.