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July 27, 2017

All-girls robotics team from Afghanistan competes after initial visa denial

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  • An all-girls team from Afghanistan reached the United States for a robotics competition after having their visas denied twice by American officials. Finally, they were allowed into the country. The girls joined students from over 150 countries around the world, including a team representing refugees. The competition was an effort to get more young people, particularly those from underrepresented countries, interested in STEM fields.
  • Several months before the competition, each team received a box containing identical wheels, gears, sensors and sprockets. It was up to each team to assemble the parts into a working robot. Sanctions involving technology exports to Iran meant that parts were not approved for shipment to that country, so high school students in Northern Virginia helped assemble Team Iran’s robot to their specifications.
  • Eighty percent of the students at the robotics competition were male, and that gender gap is represented in STEM fields worldwide. However, gender gaps in Afghanistan and around the world extend far beyond STEM fields. Globally, about 60 million girls don’t have access to education.
  • Each robotics team was paired with two others, and often the teams didn’t speak the same language. The goal of the competition was for the robots to be able to gobble up and sort orange and blue balls, representing clean and contaminated water.

  1. Essential question: How might education be different for you than it is for students in other parts of the world?
  2. Why is gender equality in STEM fields important? How could it help society advance in the future?
  3. Why do you think girls are underrepresented in STEM fields? How could this be changed?
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