The six-girl team and their chaperone completed their journey just after midnight from their hometown of Herat, Afghanistan, to enter their ball-sorting robot in the three-day high school competition starting Sunday in the US capital.
The third time's the charm for Afghanistan's all girl robotics team, who will be allowed entry into the U.S.to compete in a competition after President Donald Trump personally intervened to reverse a decision twice denying them enter into the country.
A coalition of academic and educational groups recently wrote to the State Department about Trump's visa crackdown and said, "We are very concerned that if the proposed changes are implemented, global undergraduate and graduate students, scholars, and scientific collaborators may be discouraged from coming to the United States".
President Trump had banned people from six Muslim countries to come to the United States, but Afghanistan was not included in it.
Politico notes the move to grant the Afghan team status to enter the country comes after sweltering condemnation over their refused visas. Then to apply for visas, they traveled twice to Kabul - site of a bombing on May 31 that killed 150 people - and their applications were rejected. The young engineers will be allowed entry under a protocol known as "parole", in which they will not be given formal visas but can remain in the United States for no more than 10 days.
HRW explained that, previously, the team would have been relegated to competing via Skype while their hardware made it into the United States.
"Seventeen years ago, this would not have been possible at all", said Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib.
The six girls from Herat, Afghanistan, were reportedly blocked from attending the robotics competition even after two rounds of interviews for a one-week visa.
The ordeal has a happy ending but still meant an arduous, emotional journey for the team.
"It's important for Afghan women to be able to share their ideas", said Mehraban.
The team manager, Alireza Mehraban, said the girls did not stop working on their entries after the visa denials, hoping they would be allowed to travel eventually - or ship the robots to the USA for the competition.
"We just wanted to show the power and skills of Afghan girls to Americans".
The president of FIRST Global, which organized the robotics competition, is former Democratic congressman and retired U.S. Navy Admiral Joe Sestak. "That is why I am most grateful to the U.S. Government and its State Department for ensuring Afghanistan, as well as Gambia, would be able to join us for this worldwide competition this year".