All-Girl Robotics Team from Afghanistan Debuts Low-Cost Ventilator for Coronavirus Patients

A robotics team made up entirely of young women from Afghanistan has developed a lightweight, low-cost ventilator that, pending approval, may soon be seen in hospitals across the country amid the coronavirus fight.

The Afghan Robotics Team first began developing the ventilator back in March, after COVID-19 struck, according to Reuters. The need was great, as the country reportedly has just 800 ventilators to treat patients.

With high school student and team captain Somaya Faruqi at the helm, she and six other teenage girls put their brains together to develop the machine, which can reportedly run on battery power for 10 hours and costs about $700 to produce – significantly less than the $20,000 price tag of a traditional ventilator.

“We are delighted that we were able to take our first step in the field of medicine and be able to serve the people in this area as well,” she told Reuters. “All members of our team feel happy because after months of hard work, we were able to achieve this result.”

JALIL REZAYEE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock The team with their ventilator

The robotics team was first presented with the challenge of creating a prototype of a mechanized ventilator in the hopes that it could be replicated and mass-produced, according to NPR.

They wound up using a design released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology purposely meant to be low-tech so that it could be easily replicated using products from around the world.

To put their prototype together, the girls mainly used Toyota Corolla car parts, like windshield wiper motors, NPR reported.

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Though the teens’ ventilator still needs to be tested by health authorities before it can be used, Health Ministry spokesman Akmal Samsor told Reuters that once it is approved, the ventilators will be rolled out in Afghan hospitals and the design will be shared with the World Health Organization.

“Even if it saves just one patient’s life, I’ll be happy,” Faruqi told NPR.

The Afghan Robotics Team was reportedly formed in 2017 by Roya Mahboob, a tech entrepreneur and head of the Digital Citizen Fund, which runs STEM and robotics classes for girls.

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The group made headlines in 2017 are they were twice denied travel visas to the United States in order to compete in an international robotics competition.

President Donald Trump eventually intervened and approved entry for the team to take part in the FIRST Global Challenge, which welcomed teams from more than 150 countries, according to CNN.

As of Monday afternoon, Afghanistan has seen at least 35,475 cases and 1,181 deaths attributed to coronavirus, according to The New York Times.

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