The Story of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team

Posted by on Dec 9, 2022 in People and Culture, World

In 2017, the Afghan girl’s robotics team made headlines worldwide when they won a silver medal at the first Global Challenge international robotics competition in Washington, D.C. At the end of 2021, the girls left Afghanistan as the country was falling back under Taliban control. The story of the robotics team is continuing to make an impact.

Making Their Mark

In 2017, six girls from Afghanistan were ready to compete against 157 other nations in a robotics competition in the United States. But they were told they would not be allowed to participate because they didn’t have the necessary visas to enter the U.S. At the last minute, President Trump stepped in and allowed them to participate. This delay meant that they had only two weeks to build their robot, while teams from other nations had four months. At the competition, the girls won a silver medal for courageous achievement for how well they overcame these challenging circumstances.

In 2020, the girls made headlines again. This time they used car parts to make inexpensive ventilators during the COVID-19 crisis. At the time, Afghanistan had just 400 ventilators for a population of 38.9 million people. The girls felt a special connection to this cause because they were from the western province of Herat, which was where the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country. They set about making ventilators for a fraction of what they would have cost otherwise. Their initial prototype used a motor from a used Toyota Corolla and a chain drive from a Honda motorcycle. In recognition of their achievements, the team was listed in Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 list for 2020.

Fleeing to Safety

The team is called the Afghan Dreamers and is made up of teenagers. In a country where less than thirty percent of the female population is literate, the Afghan Dreamers are viewed as a beacon of hope for the potential of female education in Afghanistan. However, the renewed power of the Taliban in Afghanistan caused the team members to leave the country to be allowed to continue their studies.

In August 2021, as the Taliban overtook the capital city of Kabul, the team members reached out to Qatar, a neighboring country, for help. The Qatar government supplied visas for the girls and provided them with an aircraft. The team met with Qatar’s ambassador in a secure location, and from there they were evacuated.

The Story Continues

Since leaving Afghanistan, the Afghan Dreamers have continued to work on their education and their projects. The team members received scholarships and funding to help advance their projects. With this assistance they have developed other technology such as a robot that helps sanitize with ultraviolet light and another robot equipped with disinfectant spray. Ayda Haydarpour is one of the team members. She is now enrolled as a first year engineering student at Virginia Tech University in the United States. She hopes to return to Afghanistan after college graduation. She and her team mates would like to one day open a school in Afghanistan to teach science and technology.

The story of the Afghan Dreamers is also being made into a movie. Filming for the movie, entitled “Afghan Dreamers” began in October 2022. The movie screenplay is being written by Roya Mahboob and two other writers. Mahboob was a founder of the robotics team in 2017.

Dig Deeper Use the Internet to learn more about individual members of the Afghan Dreamers. Where are they now? Write a summary of what you learn.