An all-female robotics team from Afghanistan built a robot to compete in the FIRST Global Challenge competition in Washington, D.C. this summer — but sadly, the girls will not be able to watch their creation in-person.
After traveling 500 miles twice to a dangerous location to apply for business travel visas, they were denied access to the paperwork needed to enter the United States, Forbes reports. Travel visas from Afghanistan to the United States are notoriously difficult to come by.
The six girls, all hailing from Herat (a large city in Afghanistan), will be video conferencing in briefly instead to compete against 163 other inventions. Only one other country has been unable to obtain the proper visa so far.
“It’s a very important message for our people,” Roya Mahboob, the country’s first female tech CEO who brought the girls together, told Forbes. “Robotics is very, very new in Afghanistan.”
She said the crushing news made the girls cry all day. Still, they have not given up — far from it.
The girls are currently finalizing their ball-sorting robot in order to send it to the U.S. They’re at a bit of a disadvantage, as their raw materials were held up in customs for months, forcing them to design homemade machines while they waited: the materials just cleared customs a few weeks ago.
14-year-old Fatemah told Forbes that she just “wants to show the world we can do it. We just need a chance.”
We’ll be rooting for them.