Photos by AFP
Beating cultural and historic odds, a team of tenacious STEM-smart teenage girls from Afghanistan just won the Entrepreneur Award at the Robotex festival in Tallinn, Estonia, the largest robotics festival in Europe. It was the second big win for the girls: In July, they were twice denied entrance to the U.S. - thanks Trump - before widespread outrage led to them being "paroled" to attend the FIRST Global Challenge in D.C., where they won a silver medal for courage. The award was apt: The girls, ages 14 to 16 and all from Herat, had to fight all the way here, including making two cross-country trips to Kabul through Taliban-controlled territory to apply for their U.S. visas.
Ten days after their win, the father of Fatemah Qaderyan, 14, the team’s captain, was killed in a suicide bombing claimed by ISIS. Still, they persevered, traveling to Estonia for a win with a remote-controlled robot that can sort balls by color. Their success coming from an embattled country where “they say no, girls in Afghanistan cannot do this," says software engineer and team mentor Alireza Mehraban, can “change what is possible” for them and their entire generation. "We want to make a difference," wrote Team Afghanistan before their trip to the U.S. "Most breakthroughs in science, technology, and other industries normally start with the dream of a child to do something great.”