The Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team Won Hearts — and Prizes — Against Incredible Odds

In a tumultuous year, a group of teenage girls from Afghanistan became the unexpected heroes of an underdog story that captivated the entire world.

It all began in June, when the all-female team of high schoolers was denied US visa necessary for their participation in July’s FIRST Global Challenge, an international robotics competition in Washington DC. In order to interview for their visas, the six teens traveled 500 miles across the country to the American embassy in Kabul, an area of the city where over 90 were killed in a May suicide bomb attack.

Roya Mahboob, Afghanistan’s first female tech CEO and the force behind the robotics team, told Forbes that when the girls learned their visas had been rejected, “they were crying all day.”

But at the 11th hour, it was President Trump who ultimately stepped in and permitted the young engineers to enter the country and pit their ball-sorting robot against the 163 other competing teams’ inventions. Fittingly, the young women came home with medals for “courageous achievement.”

It was a happy ending to a story of perseverance. Except, it wasn’t an ending at all. The Afghan girls’ robotics team was just getting started.

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