Monday, July 3, 2017

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

Amanda Erickson for The Washington Post:

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.

I’m sure the hold up was a total coincidence.

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.

Their determination to compete is inspiring and really puts things into perspective. I’ve never had to worry about a deadly truck bomb in order to do something I’m passionate about.

FIRST Global president and former congressman Joe Sestak was disappointed by the news and frustrated that the “extraordinarily brave young women” won’t be able to travel to the United States and instead will have to watch their robot compete via Skype. Teams from Iraq, Iran and Sudan will be at the competition.

The State Department should be ashamed for singling out the Afghanistan team. It’s an injustice for these girls to sit this out. More par for the course…