The Afghan Dreamers, with Roya Mahboob (left) and their coach.
The Afghan Dreamers, an all-teenage-girl robotics aggregation from Afghanistan, fabricated all-embracing account aftermost year afterwards alert actuality denied visas to appointment the U.S. for the 2017 FIRST Global Challenge, a robotics antagonism involving added than 2,500 kids from 157 countries. They eventually got permission to achieve a cruise to Washington, D.C. aftermost summer, afterwards some claimed action from, of all people, Donald Trump. Now, seven of the team’s 12 associates are in Canada, afterwards actuality arrive by FIRST Robotics Canada.
The girls, age-old 15 to 16, are actuality hosted by the Oakville families of a FIRST Robotics aggregation from St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School. They’re actuality escorted about the GTA by Roya Mahboob, the CEO of the Digital Citizen Fund, a U.S.-based non-profit that’s allotment the team, with an eye against alteration prevailing Afghan cultural attitudes against women in technology-related jobs. The Dreamers will be accommodating in bigoted qualifiers for the 2018 FIRST Global Challenge, which will be captivated in Mexico City. They’ll acknowledgment to Afghanistan in April.
We bent up with the aggregation as they arrested out a robotics accident at Ryerson University beforehand this March. With Mahboob interpreting, we asked four of them about their challenges and aspirations. Here’s what they said.
Age: 15Hometown: HeratGrade: 11
How did you get absorbed in robotics?The axis point of my activity was watching the cine I, Robot. I capital to apperceive how it was accessible to body a humanlike robot, but there were difficulties in award out more. Back I asked my family, cipher knew. There was no high-level apprenticeship in Afghanistan breadth I could go and apprentice about it. Because I was so analytical from a adolescent age, I got complex with the Afghan Dreamers.
What challenges accept you faced?In the beginning, one of the better challenges was that we didn’t accept the accessories or accouterment to body the altered genitalia we needed. We had account for robots and capital to assignment on them, but we couldn’t architecture them. We had problems accepting funding, and some of the accessories we bare was absolutely big-ticket and we couldn’t acquisition it in Afghanistan. We had to buy accessories from alfresco the country. At the time, our government didn’t pay absorption to us.
The added claiming we had at aboriginal was the adeptness barrier. Our families didn’t accept abundant in our ability. Some of our families didn’t acquiesce us to do much, and it was difficult to argue them to acquiesce us to accommodated calm in one area. One time, our drillmaster took us to a baby class in Afghanistan to apprentice more, but the men there didn’t acquiesce us to use the machines. They didn’t appetite girls application them, and didn’t accept we had the adeptness to use them.
When we couldn’t appointment America aftermost summer, it was like aggressive Mt. Everest but not actuality accustomed to angle on the peak. But again President Trump got complex and we had the visas.
What does your ancestors anticipate about what you’re doing?My ancestor was dead in a suicide bombing a anniversary afterwards I alternate from the United States. Now my ancestors wants me to break motivated and abide in robotics. My mother and brother abutment me, and this is what my ancestor capital for me. My ancestor is with me wherever I go. I brainstorm him, and his animated face shows me he is proud.
What do you anticipate of Canada?I’ve begin that Canadians are actual affectionate and sociable. They accept a admiring attitude against immigrants and I adulation that. I don’t feel like I’m not a allotment of this society.
Age: 15Hometown: NimruzGrade: 11
How did you get absorbed in robotics?Since I was actual young, I accept been absorbed in mathematics. It has consistently been one of my favourite capacity in school. I like actuality accustomed a botheration and award its solution. I like the claiming of it. I consistently did able-bodied in mathematics, which is why my ancestor told me I could become an engineer. From an aboriginal age, I knew that one day I would alum from an engineering school.
What does your ancestors anticipate about your captivation with the Afghan Dreamers?At the beginning, my ancestors was bourgeois and they didn’t anticipate that robotics was an adapted acreage for me. Actually, they didn’t apperceive what it was. But back they saw the aggregation go to the United States on TV and the faculty of pride they brought to their communities, my ancestors said I could go and be allotment of this.
What accept you abstruse from travelling with the team?I accept been to the US and Canada, and I begin out that bodies actuality account women and affliction about them actuality in the robotics field. I saw that Canadians and Americans are at a actual avant-garde level, and the opportunities for a woman to be an architect actuality are altered than in my country.
Mahboob is aggravating to a body Afghanistan’s first-ever tech school. What do you anticipate that will accomplish?Girls like me faced lots of challenges in the alpha because our families didn’t appetite us activity out of the country. The acceptable affair about the academy is that it is in Afghanistan. So there’s no alibi for added families now. Technology capacity actuality accomplished by Afghans in our own accent is an befalling for added kids to accept the opportunities I’ve had. We’ve abstruse things, and now we will accept a abode to allotment what we’ve abstruse with added kids.
Age: 16Hometown: NimruzGrade: 11
How did you get absorbed in robotics?I consistently admired inventing things. What I acquisition alarming about robotics is that you can ad-lib and body article from nothing. What I absolutely appetite to do is body a apprentice that can allocution and act like a human.
What accept you abstruse from travelling with the team?I’ve abstruse article new in every country. The Canadians I’ve met accept been actual affectionate and hospitable, but it’s actual algid here. Breadth I live, we don’t absolutely accept winters. I additionally abstruse teamwork from how Canadians work, and how they accommodate environments for kids to appear calm and learn. It’s so affective to see the parents and the association abaft them. Everything is accessible here. But it’s not like this in Afghanistan.
What does your ancestors anticipate about what you’re doing?My ancestors disagreed in the alpha for three reasons. They anticipation that robotics was not a acreage for girls, that aegis wasn’t acceptable abundant in our country for me to biking around, and they didn’t appetite me to leave Afghanistan. But I managed to argue them back I showed them what I could do, and that I could accomplish in engineering. I’ve absent my ancestors while I’ve been here. I absence aloof actuality able to sit and allocution with them, and abnormally my mother’s food. We haven’t been able to acquisition an Afghan restaurant in Oakville breadth we can eat our favourite foods, but we did acquisition a Persian one.
What would you like to do back you’re older?I appetite to be an architect and eventually become a abbot of science and technology for Afghanistan.
Age: 16Hometown: FarahGrade: 11
How did you get absorbed in robotics?I consistently admired dismantling things and rebuilding them. I like the mechanics of things, and I accept consistently been absorbed in annihilation practical. I appetite to be an engineer, and my mother has been my better supporter. She loves what I do.
What challenges accept you faced?Our claiming aboriginal on was how to absolutely body something. But we came to Canada and abstruse how to accumulate parts, and how to use technology we never saw in Afghanistan. At first, we alone drew designs for robots on paper, but now we accept abstruse how to use software. We can now calmly architecture genitalia on a computer.
What accept you abstruse during your travels?I abstruse a lot about altered cultures and association from anniversary new being I’ve met. For example, in our aboriginal antagonism in the United States, we abstruse how altered teams formed together, how they were affable accommodating with anniversary added and how they admired anniversary other’s ideas. It didn’t amount who they were, they were alive calm as a team. It was actual absorbing to see this, and, as captain of my team, I appetite us to be like this too.
Do you anticipate you can be a role archetypal for approaching ancestors of Afghan girls?I appetite to alpha a aggregation that has a lot of acceptance and employees. There I will assignment with my acceptance to body robots and avant-garde technologies. It’s important for me that I consistently body article that is meaningful. I absolutely affliction about this. Our antecedence as a aggregation is architecture robots that advice the community. One of the better industries in Afghanistan is agriculture, so we appetite to body robots that advice farmers to do things like packaging and agriculture crops.
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