Students from war-torn nations join peers in global robotics competition

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The Afghanistan girls team competes in the First Global Robotics Challenge, Monday, July 17, 2017, in Washington. The challenge is an international robotics event with teams from over 100 countries. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Nearly a thousand students gathered in Washington, DC to participate in an “Olympics” style robotics competition.

The gathering of 163 teams of high school students – from 157 nations was all in an effort to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields among children worldwide. The competition was created by not-for-profit group FIRST Global.

CGTN’s Yasmeen Alamiri reports.

For some of the students, even making it to the competition was a feat to overcome. The six-member all-girls team from Afghanistan had their visas denied twice before a last minute intervention by U.S. President Donald Trump.

One of the team members said that their surprise allowance was welcomed.

“I want to be an example for those girls who want to improve in the robotics section in Afghanistan, but they think that its impossible in Afghanistan,” said Rodaba Noori, 16, a member of Team Afghanistan.

For Team Hope, made up of Syrian refugee students currently living in Lebanon, the chance to compete among their peers from across the globe also allows them to act as ambassadors of sorts.

“We are here to break that common vision about Syrian refugees to tell people that we are not just people waiting for aid funds. We are a people of determination and persistence and the great desire to prove ourselves, and overcome all of the obstacles we face,” said Syrian high schooler Mohammad Nabia Al Katib, who is currently living in Lebanon as a refugee.

The refugee team was the only one representing Syria, as the official Team Syria were denied visas to the U.S. and were unable to compete alongside their peers.