The All-Girl Afghan Robotics Team Was Banned from Entering the US. Now It’s Inspiring a Revolution
“It’s time to take our future into our own hands,” Roya Mahboob told me.
A year ago, the Afghan entrepreneur represented a four-strong girl’s Robotics team from Afghanistan to present a robot prototype for a competition held in Washington DC. Mahboob, who lives in New York and was the first woman CEO of a tech company in Afghanistan, found herself in a difficult situation when the girls were denied a visa to the US. President Donald Trump had just signed his “Muslim Ban” executive order, which barred people from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Afghanistan, from entering the US.
When she saw that the ban had prevented the girl’s’ participation to the competition, Sarah Porter, founder of Inspired Minds, a tech and science strategy group focused on building communities around emerging technology, felt she had to intervene.
She contacted Mahboob and spent six months trying to raise awareness about the girls’ situation—they were eventually given a visa, and when they returned home, a movement started.
“We started this with inspiration from the girls,” Mahboob said. “They brought a huge sense of pride, hope and unity to the Afghan community.” This weekend, the Afghan Dreamers won the Rookie Inspiration Award at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Detroit.
Not only did they inspire people at home, the girls also opened the eyes of many artificial intelligence field experts who saw the team’s ban as a blatant example of exclusion in tech.
From Porter and Mahboob’s encounter, the idea of building a tech school in Afghanistan was born, and so was Ada-AI.
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