Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team Overcomes Setbacks to Win Contest in Europe

It has been a year of travel difficulties, project setbacks and family heartbreak, but a girls’ robotics team from Afghanistan has made a comeback.

The group of teenagers, who attracted international attention last summer when they were briefly denied visas to the United States to take part in a robotics competition, won an award at a top festival in Europe.

The teenagers, who hail from the western city of Herat, took the Entrepreneurial Challenge at the Robotex festival, which was held in Tallinn, Estonia, on Nov. 24 through 26, the Afghan embassies in London and Washington announced this week.

“We are extremely proud of the wonderful accomplishments of the Afghan All-Girl Robotics Team,” Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Said T. Jawad, said in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”

Three of the team’s 12 members participated in the competition. Their challenge was to showcase a prototype that could solve a real-world problem, and that customers would want to buy. They won with a robot that could use solar energy to support small-scale farmers in their fields, the embassy in London said. The winner was chosen by the thousands of spectators who attended the event.

The girls’ appearance at the competition in Estonia, a northern European country thousands of miles from their homeland, was a vindication of sorts after their struggles earlier this year to overcome the bureaucracy of showcasing their work internationally.

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