A group of highly-intelligent girls from Afghanistan who were denied entry to the US have won a top prize at a European robotics festival.
The all-girls team hit the headlines when they were briefly denied entry to the US over the summer, writes the Independent.
They won the Entrepreneurial Challenge at the Robotex festival, often referred to as ‘Europe’s biggest robotics festival’, in the Estonian capital of Tallinn.
This all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan was once denied entry into the U.S. — now they're champions pic.twitter.com/IMP92U6zqA
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) December 1, 2017
The festival, which ran from November 24th to 26th, challenged entrants to solve a real-world problem that would also appeal to potential customers.
Three of the 12 members of the team from Herat, the third-largest city in Afghanistan, won the competition with a robot prototype that ‘used solar energy to support small-scale farmers manage their land’.
Said T Jawad, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the UK, said in a statement:
We are extremely proud of the wonderful accomplishments of the Afghan All-Girl Robotics Team.
They are an excellent example for people around the world of what can be accomplished by young Afghans if given the right support and the opportunity to excel in their education.
They are undeniably the future of Afghanistan.
Excellent!! Congratulations ladies!!
— Isabelhodge (@Isabelhodge) November 27, 2017
Congrats to the young ladies from a self-taught ROV techpilot.
— Mark DuPriest (@Marcos989) December 1, 2017
— Saba Saeedi (@Sb_Saeedi) November 28, 2017
The team’s win consists of a ‘small cash prize and an invitation to take part in a larger event in the US in May where they will compete for investment money which they can use to start their own company, the embassy in London said.
Speaking this summer, after being denied US entry, 14-year-old Fatemah Qaderyan, who was part of the team who made two journeys to the US Embassy in Kabul, said:
We still don’t know the reason why we were not granted visas, because other countries participating in the competition have been given visas.
No one knows about the future but… we did our best and we hope that our robot could get a position along other robots from other countries.
Inspiring to meet w/ the Afghan girls robotics team & delighted they won silver medal for courageous achievement. Congratulations! pic.twitter.com/g9gnBB8aW7
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) July 19, 2017
Her teammate, 17-year-old Lida Azizi, was understandably less forgiving of the situation and said:
All of the countries can participate in the competitions, but we can’t. So it’s a clear insult for the people of Afghanistan.
After a public outcry, US officials reversed their decision and granted the girls an exemption, called a parole, that allowed them to travel.
Amazing work ladies!