FIRST Global organizes a yearly international robotics challenge to ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among more than two-billion youths across the world. The all-girls team from Afghanistan has now been granted entry to the United States after the team’s initial visa applications were denied.
The FIRST Global Challenge is an annual robotics game that addresses the 14 Grand Challenges identified by the United States of America’s National Academy of Engineering. Each year, a different Grand Challenge will take center stage as the theme of that year’s FIRST Global game, which will be held in a different nation’s capitol each year.
Team Afghanistan is the first robotic team with The Digital Citizen Fund (DCF) based on Herat, Afghanistan. The team members are from Towhid, Malakai Jalalai and Hoze Karbas High Schools. All of the members of Team Afghanistan are girls.
The girls went through the visa process twice, with both attempts resulting in a denial. The Washington Post reported that, after persuading their parents to let them attend the FIRST Global Challenge, the girls made two 500-mile trips from their hometown of Herat in Afghanistan to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to apply for visas.
Forbes reported on June 29, 2017, that the team’s robot had permission to travel to the United States for the competition, but the girls themselves were not allowed to go. The girls had planned to watch their robot compete via Skype.
The Associated Press reported today “The White House on Wednesday said President Trump intervened to allow the team to come to the U.S. after looking at several options, the National Security Council eventually settled on “paroling” the girls, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.”
The 2017 FIRST Global robotics game will be held at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The opening ceremony is in the early evening of July 16, and the two days of FIRST Global gameplay are July 17, and 18. The closing and award ceremony is in the early evening of July 18.